Henry V.

Brett Brown

Divadlo

…Into a thousand parts divide one man…

This solo performance explores the many sides of Shakespeare’s Henry V. Monarch and man.

Acclaimed actor Brett Brown, plays Henry as the newly crowned king, balancing the creation of a power base through military authority at Agincourt, with the loss of camaraderie with the common man. Through Shakespeare’s words, he narrates the progress from Royal Court to Agincourt to courtly love, as Henry finds himself as well his future.

Written by William Shakespeare

Devised by Brett Brown – actor, and Philip Parr – director

Performance in |English with Czech subtitles.

Entrance 100 CZK / 70 CZK studens

In times of crisis, England has often turned to Henry V – Shakespeare’s great real hero – as a source of inspiration. Olivier and Branagh produced films in times of conflict; Olivier’s commissioned as part of the war effort in 1944 and dedicated to the armed forces. On stage, productions have referenced Vietnam (Peter Hall), The Falklands (Adrian Noble) and Iraq (Nicholas Hytner) to list just a few. If there is a thread through the majority of interpretations is can be described in the words of the critic Jan Kott, in the seminal work Shakespeare, Our Contemporary ‘The greatness of Shakespeare’s realism consists in his awareness of the extent to which people are involved in history’, so the play becomes about the common citizen as much as the king.

 

Not surprisingly this most English of plays, English of subject matters, is rarely presented in Europe. It’s not a regular on the European Shakespeare Festival circuit – a rare recent production in Barcelona (in Catalan) chose to ask questions around the nature of victory –

Why are we so drawn to winning? Is living to win worth it? Should our images of ourselves be based on defeating others? On the path toward victory, what is lost and what is gained?

While the French were presented as a weak and distasteful nation – Spain’s historical relationship with France being as amicable as England’s – the focus was not on national pride but on collective understanding.

It’s almost as if the play is seen as too parochial, too much a celebration of Englishness, to have a wider relevance. Where Macbeth can speak for all who suffer under tyranny, Richard III represent despotic corruption in authority, and King Lear the danger of indecisive rule, Henry V is certainly more than just a historical pageant.

 

In his famous prologue to Act 1, Shakespeare asks us – the audience – to imagine that where you see one man on stage, to regard him as representing one thousand, to visalise horses, castles, mighty armies. But what if we were to take this to a logical conclusion and only show one man on stage. The core of the play is carried by Henry’s big speeches, and by the narrative of the Chorus. For much of the rest of the time the other characters are speaking about Henry. Omitting the sub plot of the low life characters, Bardolph, Pistol etc., who hang on from Henry IV where they are part of the gang that Prince Hal hangs out with, and choosing not to explore the interesting debate around multiculturalism which is promoted by the soldiery who are drawn from all home nations, we have a play about dilemma, and the choices of leadership. It’s very clear that the buck stops with Henry and he knows it. It becomes a play about control, force, power and Henry’s growing critical understanding of when to be the statesman, when show mercy and when to be merciless. It’s here that we see the culmination of a journey for Henry across three plays – the two parts of Henry IV and Henry V, building, as Shakespeare says to become

Small time, but in that small most greatly lived

This star of England. Fortune made his sword

By which the world’s best garden he achieved

And of it left his son imperial lord.

The question then is, when is there time to be just Henry – the man? That personal journey is the one we’ve chosen to chart. So please follow Shakespeare’s own advice

Into a thousand parts divide one man.

For one man in his time plays many parts

 

In the main our text is drawn from all three Shakespeare plays which feature Henry – chiefly Henry V, but also the two parts of Henry IV.