Review of Henry V at the Cambridge Arts Theatre

Globe Theatre on Tour presents Henry V at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, May 19.

Globe Theatre on Tour presents Henry V at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, May 19.

WHO would have thought that Henry V would be such fun?

This is a stupendous production. It does have a muse of fire but the performances are so light, understated, adroit and funny that it never, ever weighs heavily. Directed by Dominic Dromgoole, this is a show as full of laughter as it is of bloodshed. It just rips along.

Jamie Parker is an inspiring Henry V, a real smoothie with an answer for everything. He plays him as the consummate charmer, a super salesman. The character is never rattled because there isn’t anything he can’t talk his way out of - or other people into. His relaxed St Crispin’s Day Speech – addressed to the audience - was a calm but moving call to arms that would have enlisted a countryside full of pacifists.

Parker’s comic timing is lovely when he is wooing Princess Katherine (played beautifully by Olivia Ross – who can speak French without an accent –even to a French ear). Gloriously, Henry boasts about the things he can’t do. Again there was a delicious moment when he involved the audience – just for one line but it was wonderful.

And there were plenty of people on stage well capable of stealing the show. Lisa Stevenson is equally magnificent in her two contrasting comic roles as Mistress Quickly and Alice. Both were a joy to see. Brendan O’Hea’s Captain Fluellen was a complete treat. He drove the comedy of the play along like the dame in a pantomime. He almost made it his play.

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The production opens with a group of musicians who enhance the play throughout and finishes with dancing. Fast-paced and over before you know it, this is an immaculately performed, deftly delivered, confection of perfection.