have little idea of what Shakespeare looked like – visually, his
portrait and his plays remain a matter for conjecture. But what of
the sound of the man and his words ?
on Original Pronunciation, much of it centred on Shakespeare's Globe
and its Education arm, has been going on for some years, with the
creative approach of David and Ben Crystal, father
and son, philologist
and actor, at the heart of it.
wonderful pocket-sized Henry V – “a little room confining mighty
men” - is their latest exploration. It begins with a nervous
Prologue from Sean Garratt's Boy: actually the epilogue from Henry IV
part 2, leading seamlessly into the new play. A simple staging, with
silken hangings and subtle shadows, no costumes. Judiciously cut, but
still almost two hours and a half, without interval, which is a bit
of a trial in this venue. The intimacy of the action is stunning –
almost like a film version, where the king's thoughts are shared like
secrets with the audience, and even the denunciation of the traitors
is powerfully low-key. The “band of brothers” speech is superbly
delivered by Ben Crystal's intense King.
humour too, Adam
Webb's Mackmorrice down in the mines, Crystal senior's Fluellen, Will
Sutton's Bardolph. Much simple fun at the expense of the French,
with their silly Allo Allo accents.
the sound of the words is key to the experiment, after all. The
Crystals work hard to recreate the sounds of Shakespeare's men -
“our” “oar” and “o'er” are all the same, “charge”
rhymes, of course, with “George”, in the mouths of the French,
“horse” is indistinguishable from “arse”. It seems to me that
if vowels are going to shift, then they all should, and some actors
were more adept than others at leaving RP behind.
actors read their words – Bardolph from a neat little scroll, the
Boy from a notebook, but mostly from dog-eared scripts with
even without the attraction of the authentic voice of the Tudor
playhouse, this would be a pleasingly compelling production, shedding
new [candle-] light on a familiar text. Following this sell-out
the show moves down the Thames to Tanner Street for more performances
on August 3, 4 and 5.