BWW Review: HENRY V, Barn Theatre Live Stream
Just a few months ago, the country felt very Brexity, Prince Harry was finding a new role in the Royal Family and I was telling people that they really should get a flu jab because it can be quite nasty if you catch it.
How did that work out?
For many theatres and everyone involved in our wonderful and ancient art form, the future, ever uncertain, looks grim - what can you say when its rallying call "The Show Must Go On" is literally made illegal? But the curtain will rise again - it always does - so it's crucial to keep as many venues and companies afloat as we can. And, for those of us who are unused to spending even two nights per week at home, maintain morale by piping plays to the parlour.
The Barn Theatre have created a livestream of their 2019 production of Henry V and broadcast it across various platforms promoting their Save Our Barn appeal. It's a laudable effort, mimicking - with far less budget of course - the NT Live format. It's free too, so well played again.
As for the production itself, we're in a blackbox space with some video projection and a few dodgy edits and we see the action mainly from a fixed camera. The acting - for the stage not screen obviously - is diminished a little, as you can't really home in on faces, catch reactions or follow an actor as a scene plays out. I caught myself once or twice craning my neck to see stage right or whatever, but that doesn't work!
The most magical element of fringe theatre is that sense that we are invited into the actors' world - we suspend disbelief and we fall, fall, fall into the rabbit hole of their realm. That dynamic is flipped in a livestream - we're inviting the actors into our world with its distractions, its bland wallpaper and its pop-up notifications you forgot to turn off. But learning how to "do" a night at the theatre takes time, so why shouldn't this new medium?
Aaron Sidwell is our rave boy Harry, thrust into leadership of his band of brothers and his country, goaded into war with France by The Dauphin's gift of tennis balls - the playboy prince considered merely a player for sport. Sidwell gets the angst right, the crushing weight of responsibility to do the right thing by his soldiery and country and is sweetly affected as the rough and ready suitor to the delicate French princess, Catherine, when a peace is at hand.
Lauren Samuels plays the famous "...et les mains?" scene as she learns Eengleesh with girlish charm, balancing out the high testosterone battle scenes with their summary executions and laddish bantz. Once again, while I understand 100% the reasons for gender-blind and gender-balanced casting, there is no escaping the fact that some of Shakespeare's lines just do not work in a woman's voice and that the switch of "man" to "woman" in some lines spoils the scanning.
So it's not blackbox theatre as we know it and it's not NT Live either, but you make allowances and you enjoy what's on offer. And you help to keep regional theatre alive.
Photo Eve Dunlop