‘Once more unto the breach’

henry v at tobacco factory

One of Shakespeare’s most revered history plays is the latest production from the STF company helmed by a radical director, says James Higgins

Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory – the touring ensemble from Bristol – are about to embark on their UK tour of Henry V. The company says the play, dating from 1599, raises timely questions of national identity and leadership at a time when these issues are hot topics of debate in society.

Although centred on the infamous monarch, Shakespeare’s play is one of his most radical and includes the voices and opinions of ordinary soldiers in its exploration of class, society, power and responsibility. As Henry V launches his claim on French land, he tours the English camps in disguise speaking to the men – his interactions that night before the Battle of Agincourt lead him to consider the heavy responsibilities of his kingship.

One of a tetralogy, Henry V concludes the four-part tale of the Plantagenet dynasty with the story of one of England’s most revered warrior rulers. So significant is Shakespeare’s work, that much of the mythology surrounding Henry and his miraculous victory derives from our study of his work.

The STF company has had some notable success of late after their much-lauded production of Othello went on to win Abraham Popoola the Stage Debut Award 2017 for ‘Best Actor in a Play’. Guest director Elizabeth Freestone from the RSC recently directed a radical interpretation of Shakespeare’s poem The Rape of Lucrece, which premiered at the Edinburgh International Festival and continues to tour internationally to five-star reviews and sell-out performances.

“Our ensemble company will relish digging into this exciting play,” says director Elizabeth Freestone, “the whole of society on the Agincourt battlefield – kings, captains, soldiers and civilians – are given equal voice and prominence in Shakespeare’s play. The questions Shakespeare raises about leadership, national identity and the cost of war are at the forefront of all our minds.”

When: Until 6 October

Where: Tobacco Factory, from £12

Website: www.tobaccofactorytheatres.com

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