A CONQUERING VERSION OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE’S “HENRY V”

A Conquering Version of William Shakespeare’s “Henry V”

 

William Shakespeare’s “Henry V” the final part of the playwright’s tetralogy starting with “Richard II” followed by “Henry IV, part 1 and 2 has always been my most favorite of The Bard’s historical dramas. Over the years I have seen many fine British actors such as Richard Burton, Ian Holm, Timothy Dalton and Kenneth Branagh in a Royal Shakespeare Production in 1985.  Also many fine American productions of the play especially at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

My feeling was just want could the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival do with The Bard’s play with their Free Shakespeare in the Park 2012.   I was not disappointed sitting on the grass watching Craig Marker and company preform a two hour with an intermission production.  This cut production wisely kept most of the dialogue between Pistol (Michael Ray Wisely) and his cohorts in tack to the delight of the audience while some of “Henry V” speeches historical dialogue were cut down.  However that said the main speeches of Henry such as “O For a Muse of Fire”  were kept intact. Bottom Line this is an engrossing production that should be seen by aficionados of Shakespeare works and those persons who are not acquainted with the Bard’s play. (The couple sitting next to me had not seen the play before or knew little of Shakespeare’s works told me that they enjoyed the production immensely)

Director Kenneth Kelleher does not feature a large cast with all of the eleven actors with the exception of Craig Marker at Henry V playing many parts.   This was a spare, muscular production and the director kept the story moving, about the power of understatement and about working with a minimalist set on the outdoor stage. Kelleher and the actors successfully re-create a battlefield, a siege and both enemy camps using only a few boxes, boards and skeletal ladders against corrugated iron background with slogans.

The director has creatively placed his 11 member cast in a WWI setting and uses songs nationalistic and mischievous, period and modern to air the sentiments of common folks at war.  Cassandra Carpenter’s modern khaki outfits along with clerical robes, French blue uniforms are excellent

Craig Marker is superb as the boyish Henry V. He brings out the undercurrents of the character in later scenes when he is visits his soldiers incognito on the eve of the Battle of Agincourt.  He is delightful in one of the last scenes when he is talking to his intended bride the French princess Katherine.  Craig Marker is outstanding in the famous speeches such as the “band of brothers” speech and “O for a Muse of fire, that would ascent”. He does full justice to these speeches.

Maggie Mason is charming as the coquettish French princess Katherine especially in the hilarious English lesson scene with Michele Delattre pleasantly playing her maid. Ryan Tasker does a splendid portrayal as the peacock proud French Dauphin and the Welsh Captain Fluelen. He has a perfect Welsh accent in those scenes. Michael Ray Wisely shines as both the steadfast Lord Exeter and the lewd larcenous Pistol.

Jack Powell successfully morphs from the shrewd Archbishop of Canterbury to brawling wastrel Bardolph to the elderly king of France and the noble English Lord Erpinham.  Cheers also to the supporting cast of actors that include Anthony Shaw Abate, Nick Childress, Sean Robert Garahan, Doyle Ott, Barnaby James, Jason Kapoor, Annamarie MacLeod and Grant Menon who play various roles in this sterling production.

“Henry V” is one of the strongest shows ever presented by the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival in its Free Shakespeare in the Park. It plays just one more week end through September 23 at the Main Post Parade Ground, Presidio, San Francisco.  There is plenty of free parking next to the Parade Gound. For more information call 415-558-0888 or go on line to www.sfshakes.org