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Once More unto DelShakes, Dear Friends...for Henry V

Delaware Shakespeare Festival Henry V
Mike Logothetis

This post appears courtesy of Delaware Arts INfo Blog—view the original post here.

 

In his time, William Shakespeare became the toast of London theater circles by pleasing critics and the masses with popular plays which contained exceptional turns of phrases. Centuries later, his words remain steeped in the English lexicon. But did you know The Bard was also a motivational speaker? Actually, he wasn’t…but he wrote some extremely stirring speeches.

In America, we have “Give me liberty, or give me death!” (Patrick Henry) and “Let’s win one for the Gipper” (Knute Rockne). These are powerful words from our history which moved politicians and collegiate football players to greatness.

In Henry V, Shakespeare wrote not just one, but three superb speeches which continue to stir passion and urge listeners to action – sometimes beyond their apparent means and abilities.
 

“O ceremony, show me but thy worth!” (Act IV, Scene I)

 

But the power of these speeches and other lines of script mean little without context and delivery. The 15th annual Delaware Shakespeare production of Henry V provides its audience with those parameters of success (plus wine!). Director Jessica Bedford has assembled an excellent cast of nobles, soldiers, and other players to bring the 16th century show about the trials of leadership to life for a contemporary audience.

The most notable is the role of the titular king, played with fiery depth by Emilie Krause. Yes, the king is really a queen of the stage in this gender-blind production. Because the words are so strong and the direction so polished, you don’t dwell on “Harry” being played by a woman. (You shouldn’t anyway.) Krause wrestles with decisions, lashes out at traitors, fraternizes with common soldiers, and courts a French princess like any good Shakespearean hero king would. She’s the foundation on which this lovely outdoor production sits.

Along with Krause, Leonard Kelly stands out playing three disparate roles to perfection: Bardolph, Erpingham, and the King of France. Kelly’s ability to transition from the drunken common man in the trenches to a king trying to control his nobles, son, and armies against English invaders is impressive.
 

“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more” (Act III, Scene I)

 

If you are unfamiliar with the play, the story focuses on events immediately before and after the Battle of Agincourt during the Hundred Years’ War between England and France. Characters on both sides scheme for power, jostle for political and economic position, and steal for profit. The scene where Henry confronts those who conspire to murder him is a powerful one. The audience can feel the walls closing in on those who wish to depose their king.

Don’t be frightened of Shakespeare’s famous wordplay – the actors convey more than their scripted lines with their actions and reactions to events taking place on stage. The pacing is tight and the plot is clear to follow. Even if you miss some nuance due to language, you can follow the story and empathize with the heavy situations King Henry must weigh in his mind.
 

“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers” (Act IV, Scene III)

 

The raised circular stage has four entrance and exit passages which makes the audience feel part of the action, especially during the climactic battle. This intimacy also allows those delicate lines delivered with passion or humor or anger or pathos to draw you closer to identifying with certain characters and circumstances. It is an ideal venue and setting to enjoy Shakespeare’s work. (It's also beautiful when you settle into a chair and soak it all in.)

Only three actors play single roles and the well-drilled cast of Guillermo Alonso, Adam Altman, Nathan Bunyon, Carlo Campbell, Macy Jae Davis, Kristin Devine, Nico Galloway, Savannah Jackson, Annette Kaplafka, Marcellus McQueen, Adam Pierce Montgomery, David Pica, and Cristina Riegel are a worthy Shakespearean troupe.

Attending performances outside in the round (under the stars!) at Rockwood Mansion is a delight that longtime area theater-lovers and burgeoning fans should make plans to experience. Henry V runs from July 14-30 with gates opening early for pre-show entertainment and picnics. For the first time, bottles of wine will be available for purchase this year, courtesy of Swigg. Concessions featuring foods from Janssen’s Market will also be on sale. Patrons are encouraged to bring picnicking items plus lawn chairs and blankets to the park for the performances. 

General admission is $18 with discounted tickets for seniors and active military ($16) as well as students ($14). Children age 5 and under are free and each Sunday is Family Night. Curtain is at 7:30 from Wednesdays through Saturdays and at 6 on Sundays.

The 2017 Delaware Shakespeare season will include two full productions – the current Summer Festival (Henry V) and a fall Community Tour (As You Like It) from October 25 through November 9. There will also be three ticketed performances on November 10-12 at OperaDelaware Studios.
 

“The game's afoot: Follow your spirit” (Act III, Scene I)

 

See www.delshakes.org.