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One man, 17 roles: Shakespeare gets a makeover

PUBLISHED: 17:00 29 March 2017

Into The Breach at the Old Red Lion. Picture: Syd Wall

Into The Breach at the Old Red Lion. Picture: Syd Wall

© Syd Wall, © Syd Wall

Set in the Second World War in a sleepy Devon village, the poignant comedy follows George and an eccentric cast as they take on Henry V.

Actor Mark Carey is back in London with a one night run of his successful William Shakespeare Henry V makeover, Into the Breach.

Carey plays all 17 characters in the 90-minute show, which focuses on handyman George Crocker and his introduction to the Bard’s study of leadership.

Set in the Second World War in a sleepy Devon village, the poignant comedy follows George and an eccentric cast as they take on the play.

The feel good story has already pulled in the crowds at the Rosemary Branch Theatre and now comes to The Old Red Lion Theatre in Islington on April 3.

Carey says he is delighted to bring the play to North London having spent three years at the Central School of Drama in Swiss Cottage between 1980 and 83. Contemporaries included Natasha Richardson, Steve Delaney, aka “Count Arthur Strong,” Jerome Flynn, Amanda Donahoe and theatre director Michael Grandage.

“It’s always exciting to do a play in London and it means more when you have written and produced it,” he says. “I have been touring the show around the UK, playing to everybody from school children to pensioners’ groups and of course, theatres.

“The feedback has been fantastic, even with those who thought they didn’t like Shakespeare. It is very accessible.”

The show, which made its London premiere in 2014, revolves around handyman George Crocker, who left some of his soul on the battlefields of the First World War. He never speaks about the horrors of the trenches, living a quiet life in the sleepy Devon hamlet of Lowford.

The character of George was inspired by Carey’s grandfather Reg Luxton, who was evacuated from Dunkirk and fought through Europe.

“He fought through the war - notably at Monte Casino in Italy - and survived. But he was a changed man.

“The character of George is based on him. A man who has seen a lot but can never bring himself to speak about it. In George’s case, fate gives him the opportunity to be a different person.”

In the play, George auditions for the Lowford Drama Club, believing they are doing a pantomime. He meets luvvie Simon Trottley Barnes (“it was never like this at the Old Vic”) with a grandiose ambition to put on Shakespeare for the masses.

Through George we experience the small man taking on the big challenge... and get under the skin of Henry V.

Mark adds: “The play has gone down really well in London and it’s suitable for all ages. It’s Shakespeare but not necessarily as you know it.”

The story of George and Shakespeare merge with the most fitting of climaxes. George, a man reborn, thunders: “Once more into the breach, dear friends.”

Into The Breach is at The Old Red Lion Theatre on Monday April 3 at 7.30pm. Tickets: £10 from www.oldredliontheatre.co.uk.

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