REVIEW: Henry V at The Barn Theatre, Cirencester

Henry V at The Barn Theatre, Cirencester

Henry V at The Barn Theatre, Cirencester - Credit: Eve Dunlop

Hal Chambers’ interpretation of Henry V for The Barn Theatre is a cinematic masterpiece

Henry V at The Barn Theatre, Cirencester

Henry V at The Barn Theatre, Cirencester - Credit: Eve Dunlop

When I was first asked if I would be interested in seeing an adaptation of a Shakespeare play, I was apprehensive. I've never been the biggest fan of Shakespeare's work, and any adaptation I've seen never quite caught my interest, but I can now say with certainty that Hal Chambers' adaptation of Henry V has entirely reversed my previous skepticism of adapting Shakespeare for modern audiences.

Hal Chambers' Henry V reinterprets the story of a new king thrust into a bitter conflict and mirrors it with present day events, it often feels more like a geo-political drama in some places, with all too real scenes of Henry giving a forced smile to journalist cameras offstage before his discussions with France, that mirror the necessity of good PR in modern politics.

As the conflict with France draws near, the play's cinematic influences become more apparent. The tension of the field of battle is made real by a superb cinematic score and encompassing lighting effects that run through the entire space, beyond the stage and in some cases surrounding the audience. It really feels like you're there with the soldiers in the heat of battle; gunships flying overhead, explosions, and the muzzle flash of firearms all come to life with the use of the space's light and sound rig, which covers the intimate theatre in its entirety.

The score itself is composed by Harry Smith, written exclusively for the production. Subtle drones, heavy drum and bass segments, and melancholic piano melodies excel in complimenting the performances on stage, and drive high emotions in non-spoken sequences. Harry Smith draws influence from the works of drum and bass artists by the likes of Noisia and Emperor, which can be felt clearly in the high-octane action sequences. Scenes of dialogue are often accented by drones and minor-key piano melodies which lend much inspiration from modern cinema and the works of Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor. This score is felt throughout the entire play, and dictates much of its dark atmosphere.

The spectacular performances also drive much of the show's tone, particularly that of Aaron Sidwell, the leading man playing the part of Henry. His style of performance ranges from both impassioned, intense monologues to light-hearted comedic banter, both executed superbly to an effect that portrays a likeable yet flawed truly human portrayal of Henry V, which is much in keeping with his personal interpretation of the character.

By the end of the show, I walked out with nothing but praise for the entire production, a superbly crafted and thoroughly entertaining play that would not have been possible without the combined skill and efforts of everyone involved. You could say it has even won me over on Shakespeare.

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Henry V is at The Barn Theatre, Cirencester, until June 22.

Call The Box Office: 01285 648255

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