Henry V | The Winter's Tale
Star Rating: 3/5
Henry V/The Winter's Tale
The Black Box, Galway
Twelve months after thrilling the Galway Arts Festival with Richard III and The Comedy of Errors, the all male Propeller Theatre Company brought their high-octane approach to Shakespeare back to the West with Henry V and The Winter's Tale. But while their highly aesthetic take worked for realising Richard's blood lust and in the staging of Comedy's cartoon violence, they found more finicky bedmates in the cerebral Henry and problematic Winters Tale. While both entertained, with neither show did they impart meaning from the text.
Henry V, mounted for the first time in this country since 1906 finds former party boy, Prince Hal, now matured into the head of state, lured into a questionable war with the French by senior advisors and Gallic gall. Through song and sweat the remarkably tight ensemble enliven the horrors they faced - as director Ed Hall imaginatively devised ways to add umph to the barbarous practices of war using punching bags, sparring mitts and packets of blood. Through the simplest of physical movements and geographic balladry (The Clash with a bit of Rule Britannia thrown in for the Brits, Piano accordion laced pop from the French) we switch between the English and French Courts, the battlefields, trenches, taverns and watch towers all envisioned though the swirling scafolded set.
Machine gun fire and strobe lighting gives the production a more modern feel, as khaki attired troops burst with testosterone, colloquiums and caricatured accents, with visual homages to D-Day and other cinematic images from battlefields past inserted throughout. But while all this aesthetic flair keeps the piece moving at an involving pace, meaning is left behind as words get swallowed by effects, whole characters gobbled up in regional dialects and Dugald Bruce-Lockhart's Henry hardly modulates his voice from one scene to the next.
The dominance of the aesthetic over the action is heightened when we come to The Winter's Tale, a tale of two looks. One the steel and glass Gothicism of Sicily, where the citizens dress to impress. The other the pastoral piss up of Bohemia, where the sheep-shearing festival gets a rock and roll makeover, replete with free love, nudity, and bleating back up singers.
16 years after being left for dead by her father, Leontes, King of Sicily this is where we find Perdita, apple of Florizel's eye and cause of his defection to Sicily, where his father, Bohemian King Polixenes, only just escaped with his life years before (he'd been falsely accused of fathering the girl). Thinking Perdita too common to be a good match for his son - not knowing her true identity, he follows the fleeing lovers to Sicily for a showdown with them and Leontes, whose paranoid delusions ended their friendship years before.
The dual aesthetics are well executed and performances, particularly Tony Bell's Alice Cooper aping Autolycus - who leads the company in bursts of Donna Summer and The Shamen, are terrific. But the trickery used in separating the two worlds again overtakes what's being said, a melding of Beyonce and the bard elicit a particularly labored laugh and the single sex approach distracts here unlike in Henry V, where Karl Davies' Catherine, stole the show.
All in all, these shows were an enjoyable watch. But scratching beyond their whimsy and visual ingenuity, I'm not quite sure what, if anything, Propeller were trying to say.
Story by EI Team | 09:00 | Wednesday 1st August 2012 | Theatre
Can I ask why this review, like a number of reviews here, is not credited to an individual reviewer?Posted 11:39 | Thu 2nd Aug 2012
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