Friday, 18 September 2015

Henry V in Stratford-Upon-Avon

And so to Stratford-Upon-Avon to see Henry V, which I was excited about as I hadn't seen it before. Not without mixed feelings, though - I love the poetry, but felt worried by the perception of nationalism, and the victorious Henry's suggestion at the end of play that he and his conquered queen beget a son who 'shall go to Constantinople and take the Turk by the beard'. 

First, though, a wander along the bank of River Avon, where the already-drawing-in night produced some beautiful plays of light.  




What would Stratford be like without the legacy of its extraordinary son, I wonder?  A stolid, red-brick working town, I should imagine. (Like Devizes, maybe).  
Instead famous actors have memorial stones ... 
... and in the churchyard of the Holy Trinity, where Shakespeare is buried, there's the suspicion that we could be in Narnia. 



Even the doves seemed to be auditioning for Othello as they settled into their habitual roosting sites. 




By now it was time for us to settle too, into our front row seats for a play that has been described as the 'National Anthem in five acts' and thus apposite in a week when the refusal of the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, to sing 'God Save The Queen' was bigger news, according to the press, than the gravest refugee crisis in decades, the slashing of tax credits, and the continuing attack on the rights of working people.  




Yet there's nothing noble in Shakespeare's depiction of Henry's invasion of France, and in this production, the speech on the Eve of St Crispin's Day is delivered not vaingloriously or even patriotically, but as a rather forlorn attempt to rouse disheartened, outnumbered soldiers with no realistic hope of victory. A bit like this, in fact:

 

My evening was complete when Pistol, played by Antony Byrne, presented me with part of the leek from Fluellen's cap, with which the Welsh captain had beaten him around the head and forced him to eat.  Not quite enough to make soup, though. 






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