Luciano Dodero beguiles as the embattled king. Credit: Photographer Pete Messum (C) Richmond Shakespeare Society

Henry V review: an enthralling study of war

A swarm of arrows are suspended over the stage in Henry V, creating a constant sense of uneasiness.

When will the arrows fall, and on whom?

Richmond Shakespeare Society’s Henry V, directed by Francesca Ellis, tells the story of the English king’s victory against the French at Agincourt.

He then had his claim to France recognised, married the French princess, and seemingly ended the Hundred Years War.

In history, it was an improbable triumph followed by inexplicable tragedy.

Henry died young. His son and heir was only a baby. Henry VI would grow up to struggle with mental illness, before losing his crown and ultimately his life to usurpers.

Meanwhile, The Hundred Years War would continue.

Luciano Dodero (Henry) gives a beguiling performance as someone who understands the precarity of his situation.

In scenes with his army, he exudes perfect confidence. Alone, he is brimming with anxiety.

Henry is the son of the usurper, and fears God may punish him for it on the battlefield. While Henry lays claim to France, he is not even convinced he has the rightful claim to England.

It was transfixing watching Henry wrestle with that eternal question of where to draw borders and when to draw swords.

Henry proposes to Princess Catherine. Credit: Photographer Pete Messum (C) Richmond Shakespeare Society
A happy ending? Dodero and Fitz as Henry and Catherine.
Credit: Photographer Pete Messum (C) Richmond Shakespeare Society

Henry V can often be a jingoistic show. It is, after all, about an English victory over the French.

This is not the Ellis’ Henry V.

It is a show that shows war in all its ugly reality, even using authentic swords.

It has a happy ending of sorts. Having won the battle, Henry falls in love with the French princess Catherine (played beautifully by Anna Fitz).

Their marriage seems to be what will unite the two kingdoms and finally end the war.

But the arrows are still hanging over the stage.

Henry V is on stage until Saturday 29 April.

Tickets can be bought online, or by phoning the box office at 07484 927662.

The RSS stage eight plays a year in and around Twickenham. Their next show, Murder in the Cathedral, is playing in June.

Featured image credit: Photographer Pete Messum (C) Richmond Shakespeare Society

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Janice Harris
Janice Harris
27 April 2023 11:09 pm

We thought tonight’s performance was excellent, edge of the seat enthralling portrayal of Henry V.

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