The Dark Room, Cnr Pitt and Church Street, Palmerston North

15/10/2015 - 18/10/2015

Production Details

Families at War at Agincourt: Shakespeare’s Henry V to be performed in Palmerston North.

It’s 1415: King Henry V of England makes a grab for France. His cousin, French King Charles VI, sitzkriegs.  

Henry and his army capture the French port city of Harfleur. Winter’s looming, Henry’s army is sick and hungry, and everyone just wants to go home. The French King has other ideas, and blockades their escape. They meet at Agincourt, on October 25, 1415.

The French outnumber the English five to one; pre-battle Gallic confidence arrows upwards. The underdogs win, decisively, thanks to the English longbow, and the rest is history.

Six hundred years after the battle, Henry V director Simon Herbert attributes his interest in this little-known history play to a guided tour of England’s Warwick Castle he did as a small boy.

“They had a longbowman demonstrating shooting, and he told us all about the Battle of Agincourt. It grabbed my imagination, and I’ve wanted to direct Henry V ever since,” Herbert said.

“And Henry V is one of my favourite Shakespearian plays. It’s not well-known, but it’s got some of the best speeches and finest poetry Shakespeare wrote.”

One of the most interesting things about Henry V is the different stories it tells about war, and the different stories we tell ourselves about war.

“We tell ourselves its patriotic and noble, but is it, really?”

The Dark Room, Palmerston North
October 15-18, 7.30pm, 2pm October 18.
Tickets: $15, $10 concession. 

Rohan Hunter — King Henry V, King of England
Paul Lyons — Archbishop of Canterbury/Earl of Cambridge/ Llewellyn
Sasha Lipinsky — Bishop of Ely/Pistol /Sir Thomas Grey /Constable of France
Alexandra Bellad-Ellis — Duke of Exeter/John Bates
Katherine Lyons — Earl of Westmorland/Nym/Thomas Court
Alwyn Bakker — Duke of Gloucester/Bardolph/Duke of Orléans
Danelle Walker — Duke of Bedford/Captain Macmorris/French Soldier
Jayden Dawson — Ambassador/Montjoy/Jamy/Governor of Harfleur/Sir Thomas Erpingham
Annie Richards — Mistress Nell Quickly/Dauphin/Gower
Aaron McLean — Boy/Lord Scroop of Masham/King of France/Michael Williams

Directed by Simon Herbert
Technical Director: Patrick Costello
Director’s Assistant: Alwyn Bakker
Costumes by Lee Matthews
Set Designed and constructed by Nic Green
Graphic Design and photography by Kate Costello 

Theatre ,

Juxtaposing the heroic and horrific

Review by Adam Dodd 16th Oct 2015

Bucking the recent trend with Shakespearean performance, the Iris Theatre Company‘s rendition of HENRY V conserves the integrity of the period style. This can likely be attributed to DirectorSimon Herbert’s fascination with the Battle of Agincourt, kindled from a telling of the battle by a longbowman encountered when Herbert was a small boy.

I respect the decision: in many ways it is harder to work from a straight period performance without stylistic layering, but I feel a pang of disappointment that the performance isn’t more sumptuously steeped in the trappings of the period. The costumes and set serve purpose, but do not distinguish themselves.

Language is a strength but suffers for a lack of energy – maybe opening night doldrums or the curse of an inauspicious audience (thirteen I hear mentioned, counting the front of house). In spite of this, the interplay of characters begins to find its stride in the second half, benefiting from some of the more humourous speeches and exchanges of banter.

Based locally, the company is a small troupe, recently emergent. Despite varying levels of experience evident, this predominantly young company shows moments of brilliance: Alexandra Bellad-Ellis’ contemptuous Duke of Exeter, Annie Richards’ foppish indignation as the Dauhin, Aaron McLean’s recalcitrant contrition (as Michael Williams), and Alwyn Bakker’s wry mirth (as the Duke of Orléans) are a smattering of examples.

Of the more notable performances, the titular Henry ‘Harry’ (Rohan Hunter), bears himself regally and poetically but would benefit from breaking from his steady delivery to breathe life into the role. While Hunter has gravitas, the royal ire feels leaden and constrained.

Capt Llewllyn – one of Paul Lyons’ several roles – stands out, making excellent use of the rhythm of of the Bard’s words as well as demonstrating the calibre of Lyons’ subtlety in expression.

Sasha Lipinsky’s characterisations, particularly of the irreverent Pistol, are also noteworthy. While more overt than Lyons, her physicality and expressionism define each of her roles as distinct and colourful. 

Director Simon Herbert also takes to the stage, filling the choric role with great aplomb and helping to buoy up the energy levels of his cast. 

As expected with a small troupe, rapid changes between roles is tricky (eleven fill thirty-one roles!) but they manage this well in spite of some transition issues. The awkwardness (both for the cast and the audience) pays off in the fundamental suggestion that in war, the agents are often interchangeable. This forms part of the consideration being made by the play, juxtaposing the heroic and horrific. Herbert’s decision to cut the entirety of the fifth act helps to sharpen this focus; that it is missing in action may irk some but I find I do not feel the loss.

Overall a solid and much promising first showing from the Iris Theatre Company, but one that will benefit from the heroic energy and horrific intensity that I hope and expect they will find over the course of the season.  


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