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Theatre review: Henry V at the Old Red Lion Theatre

10:08 06 August 2012

Jack Morris in Henry V at the Old Red Lion Theatre. Photo by Richard Davenport

Jack Morris in Henry V at the Old Red Lion Theatre. Photo by Richard Davenport

©Richard Davenport.

Enthralling and original production compares King Henry to Tony Blair

»There have been numerous productions in recent times of Henry V, one of Shakespeare’s most celebrated plays.

But this one, part of the Old Red Lion’s repertory season, is unlike any made before.

Director Henry Filloux-Bennett takes the play and transforms it into a critical response to the second Iraq war, following the recent Iraq inquiry.

King Henry and his actions are compared to those of Tony Blair. A newly appointed leader guided by religious conviction; a threat to peace; a questionable case for war. The play asks of us: does nothing ever change?

Six actors, each playing multiple characters, bring us this portrayal of a modern war, complete with twenty-four hour news cycle, political spin, prisoner abuse and UN Resolutions.

Sections are cut from Shakespeare’s Henry V to create this modern slant, with intermittent video footage showing us Bush in cahoots with Blair, and the Iraq war.

There are two actors playing the part of the King – a Henry who is clearly modelled on Tony Blair, with New Labour mug in hand, (Jack Morris) and the Henry at war (Mark Field).

The experienced Steve Fortune plays Cambridge, Nicholas Kime brings some camp humour to roles especially that of the Dauphin, and Mark Field gives a solid performance as Henry going into battle.

But the excellent Jack Morris is the star of this show, his portrayal of Blair eerily accurate.

If you are looking for a traditional retelling of Henry V, this is surely not it. However, it is a thought provoking, highly original take on the play and one that will hold you enthralled throughout.

* Henry V is at the Old Red Lion Theatre in St John Street, EC1, until September 29. Call 0844 412 4307 or visit www.oldredliontheatre.co.uk for tickets.

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