A conspiracy to dumb down the dark side of archetypal English hero Henry V has been uncovered in a radical new version of the Shakespeare play, performed by Edward Hall’s all-male theatre company Propeller.
The notion that Henry (left) was ‘curiously flat’ for a Shakespearean hero was dismissed by representatives of the troupe, the actor Dugald Bruce-Lockhart and tour Company Manager Nick Chesterfield, in a statement made to the press on Monday.
“Shakespeare doesn’t do one-dimensional characters,” Mr Chesterfield pointed out. Mr Bruce-Lockhart went further, alleging deliberate state manipulation of the play, claiming that in 1944 the then-Prime Minister of Great Britain, Winston Churchill, had insisted on a series of chops to make it more patriotically palatable.
It is only after a fresh, rigorous study of the text by the Propeller team that the miraculous, overnight transformation of the protagonist – from cheeky bar chap ‘Hal’ at the end of Henry IV part 2 into holy-honourable King Henry V – has been put into question. Mr Bruce-Lockhart, who plays him, called him “a reluctant king” whose crown was thrust upon him, and who was then obliged to make it stay there.
“His father had no right to the throne, so Henry inherited a country divided. He was forced to unite his people with a victory over the French to prove he was in direct line from God.” Painful, grisly acts ensued, which caused the young man great anxiety. Treachery, executions, and the additional obligation to take responsibility for the deaths of his fellows in battle, knowing all the while that when he sniffed a violet it smelt the same to him as it did to other men statistically beneath him. (4.1.106).
Alas, this all-too human Henry grappling with personal issues struggles throughout the play with the isolation of a ruler-hero. Happily! as is usual for Propeller, they do make a song and dance about it and the production is enlivened with laughs, blood, mud, explosions and popular bar hits, plus some original compositions by company members.