Henry V

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The Barbican (RSC production)

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In a fit of – I don’t know exactly what but it certainly wasn’t sanity – I bought tickets to see The King and Country tetralogy (also known as the Hollow Crown) over three days at the Barbican. This is the fourth of the four – the first is Richard II, the second is Henry IV Part One and the third is Henry IV Part Two.

Hal is back in trousers. I mislike this.

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Your Majesty shall mock me

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The actual notes I made while watching Henry V go like this:

  • Tom whats-his-face from King Lear! He always sounds that drippy!
  • Tom Hiddleston riding. Does he do his own riding?
  • Are they going to colour-code this with French in blue and English in Red? Should make it easier to follow…
  • Masterful Tom Hiddleston.
  • Oh look it’s Anton Lesser!
  • Speechifying Tom Hiddleston.
  • The comedy bit with Katherine. Never quite got this.
  • Tom Hiddleston has an army of twelve. Never mind, the French only have about twenty.
  • Tom Hiddleston in velvet. Yay!
  • It’s over? No more Tom Hiddleston? Sadface.

O do not wish one more!

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I have just finished watching the Hollow Crown. What a brilliant and masterful production it has been. Richard II did stand out for me, but all the casting and production has been great, and I can’t wait for round 2!

Henry V is obviously a play that gets done a lot – and like all true Englishmen, I’ve seen both the Laurence Olivier and Kenneth Branagh versions. I said before that I thought it would be possible to find more in it than Olivier’s glorification and Branagh’s denial of war, and it seemed to me this was a more intimate portrayal, focussed on Henry rather than seeking to make a broader statement.

Tom Hiddleston, therefore, had a lot to do and he did it astonishingly well. Well, no, not astonishingly well – I should know by now that he is a very gifted actor. He portrayed a really majestic king, one who was considered, but decisive when he needed to be, not proud, but dignified. And an awesome speechmaker. It was really jolting, to see the brief flashbacks and remember what a wastrel he had been in Henry IV. Now Hal was Henry, a successful king, winner of wars – and ladies.

And what did they do with this? They bookended the film with his funeral. What could be, on the face of it, a rather triumphal (or at least happy) film, they made into a tragedy. What a waste of England, to have and lose such kings as we have seen! What a Hollow Crown it is…