REVIEW | Henry V, Barn Theatre's Digital World Premiere


Henry V
Barn Theatre
★★★★

Who would have predicted that the way we witness theatre would shift so much in 2020? We're living in a developing pandemic, meaning our favourite traditional forms of escapism have been swept from under our feet in the click of the fingers. Theatres and companies are facing a really unpredictable time and are engaging in new ways to connect with their audiences during the upcoming weeks. Arts Council England did recently unveil an "emergency £160 million response package for the cultural sector", but of course as audiences/thespians, it is our responsibility to continue immersing ourselves into theatre in whatever capacity we can.  

One theatre getting stuck in and the first show I am reviewing digitally is Barn Theatre's Built by Barn production of William Shakespeare's Henry V. This free event is in aid of the Theatre's #SAVEOURBARN campaign to save the theatre which is looking at a £250,000 loss and potential permanent closure as a result of the pandemic. Both of the programme and soundtrack are available to the general public should they wish to contribute a donation at their discretion. 

The show is directed by Hal Chambers and although the story is historical, this production has been developed to be as current as possible and something that a younger audience can relate to. What a better way to do that moving forward then gaining them access to a digital performance of their production. The premise for that is very much here; the recognizable characters, the familiar storyline and traditional Shakespeare speech used to bring Henry V to life. The production does a superb job in using striking music and projection to transition through the different scenes and atmosphere within the storyline.



The newly crowned King Henry V is played by Aaron Sidwell, an actor known for starring in Eastenders and Wicked. In Barn Theatre's production, he portrays the focused, fearless and committed to the responsibilities of becoming king. Sidwell brings the iconic long monologues with a real sense of intensity and power that oozes through the screen well. Sidwell really does a great job at portraying a familiar character.

The staging is quite simplistic with the use of scaffolding set and military fatigues from Emily Leonard but it plays an important role in showing modernisation of the story. Lauren Samuels plays a good 'Kate' as well as other roles within the production. She knows how to transition between the male and female roles well, not forgetting to give a nod to the class divide in the story.

To be honest, Shakespeare's work isn't something that appeals to me on a personal level. However, I enjoyed what this production from the Barn Theatre had to offer and it gave me a new insight into the work and how we can approach it in a modern context.

I think Barn Theatre has done a superb job using different video footage to bring their production to life to the many households up and down Britain desperate to keep theatre very much alive right now. The addition of interviews with the cast in the interval was a really effective way of understanding the creative process more. The show must go on and the Barn Theatre are making miles already in achieving this!

You can watch the Henry V production for yourself over on Youtube, here.


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