Henry V

Gladstone Vinyard, Wairarapa

05/02/2009 - 07/02/2009

Studio 77 Amphitheatre, 77 Fairlie Tce, Wellington

13/02/2009 - 28/02/2009

Production Details

Spectacular battle scenes in biggest Summer Shakespeare yet

Expect battle scenes the scale of which are rarely seen on stage when Summer Shakespeare returns in 2009 with the Bard’s most exciting play, Henry V.

The historic themes of war and nationalism will be given modern relevance as director David Lawrence sets the play very close to home: right here, right now.

Henry V tells the story of a newly crowned king waging war on an ‘enemy’ to promote nationalism in his country. Lawrence says the play will strike a familiar chord with today’s audience. "In our times of soaring oil prices and crunching credit, this play is a timely reminder that history does indeed repeat."

Summer Shakespeare itself has a long history in Wellington.  In this, its 26th year, it returns to the heart of Victoria University – the Studio 77 Amphitheatre. Lawrence says the venue will provide audiences the perfect ‘cockpit’ from which to view the battle scenes that make this play thrilling.

"The production will transform the Amphitheatre and its surrounds into a battleground for over 30 actors, making this the biggest Shakespeare production to be seen in Wellington," he says.

"Battle scenes of this scale are a thrilling prospect for both audiences and actors alike, and with internationally acclaimed fight choreographer Allan Henry (Footballistic, A Renaissance Man) at the helm, these battles promise to be not only epic but also spectacular," says Lawrence.

David Lawrence is one of New Zealand’s most well-known directors of Shakespeare, with 12 productions under his belt (most recently King Lear which received critical acclaim in Wellington and Dunedin). 

Lawrence’s long-time collaborator, Alex Greig (Revenge of the Amazons, A Renaissance Man), plays the title role of Henry, King of England. Allan Henry also stars in the play as the Constable, the leader of the French army. "The fight between these talented physical performers promises to be one of the highlights of the show," says Lawrence. 

These hardened soldiers are joined by newcomer Alison Walls (recently returned from studying theatre in New York) who takes the dual role of the Chorus and the French Princess Catherine, giving a female slant on a very male story.

The 2009 Victoria University of Wellington Season of Henry V  launches the year-long Compleate Workes Festival, a nation-wide event during which all of Shakespeare’s plays will be performed. 


This historic production is not to be missed!   

Preview Season:
5—7 February 2009, 5.30pm
Gladstone Vineyard

Wellington Season:
13—28 February 2009, 7pm (no show Monday)
Amphitheatre, 77 Fairlie Terrace
Victoria University of Wellington
Bookings at Downstage (04) 8016946 www.downstage.co.nz/book

Wet weather venue
Wellington – Studio 77, 77 Fairlie Terrace, Kelburn, Wellington (please note that standby tickets will not be guaranteed entry to this venue because of seating restrictions)

Duration: Performance is 3 hours long (including interval)

Ticketing Prices (Wellington)
Full: $22 (+ booking fee)
Group Concession: (groups of 10+) – $19 per ticket (+ booking fee)
School-age child – $14 (+ booking fee)
Standby: $15 (seating on ground/bank – available at Amphitheatre 1 hour before performance begins) Please note that standby tickets do not guarantee entry to wet weather venue. 

Duke of Gloucester (the King's brother): FIONA McNAMARA
Duke of Bedford (the King's brother): ALISHA TYSON
Duke of Exeter (the King's uncle): JONNY POTTS
Duke of York (the King's cousin): BLAIR EVERSON
Archbishop of Canterbury: DAVID GOLDTHORPE
Bishop of Ely: JAMES BARBER
Earl of Westmorland: VICTORIA MORGAN
Richard, Earl of Cambridge: DANIEL WATTERSON
Henry, Lord Scroop of Masham: KIRSTY BRUCE
Sir Thomas Erpingham (an officer): TONY CATFORD
Captain Fluellen: CHRIS SMITH
Williams (a soldier): DANIEL WATTERSON
John Bates (a soldier): VICTORIA MORGAN
Alexander Court (a soldier): ALISHA TYSON
Bardolph (former drinking buddy of Henry's): BENYAMIN ALBERT
Nym (former drinking buddy of Henry's): JACK O'DONNELL
Pistol (former drinking buddy of Henry's): JACKSON COE
Nell Quickly (tavern keeper and Pistol's wife): AMELIA WILLCOX
The Boy (friend of Falstaff): JESSICA AALTONEN
Sir John Falstaff (former friend of Henry's): TONY CATFORD

King Charles IV of France: MICHAEL BRADY
Queen Isabel of France: SUZIE EVANS
The Dauphin (son of King and Queen): ALEX RABINA
Katherine (daughter of King and Queen): ALISON WALLS
Alice (maid to Katherine): LOUISE BURSTON
Duke of Orleans (brother to the King): BLAIR EVERSON
The Constable (commander of the army): ALLAN HENRY
Lord Rambures (Master of the Crossbows): KIRSTY BRUCE
Duke of Burgundy (nobleman): LAURA FESLIER
Duke of Bourbon (nobleman): ELEANOR STEWART
Earl Grandpre (lord): BROOKE SMITH-HARRIS
Montjoy (a herald): HANNAH McKIE
Monsieur le Fer (a soldier): CATHY GAMBA
Governor of Harfleur: TONY CATFORD


Production Manager: SIMON VINCENT
Lighting Designer: REBECCA WILSON
Fight Choreographer: ALLAN HENRY
Stage Manger: LORI LEIGH
Assistant Stage Manager: BROOKE SMITH-HARRIS
Lighting Operator: MEL DUNCAN

3 hrs incl. interval

A wild ride

Review by Lynn Freeman 18th Feb 2009

Once more in to the breach, dear friends.  After a gap year, Summer Shakespeare makes a very welcome return.  When it’s a David Lawrence directed production, you know you’re in for a wild ride and Henry V is no exception.

With a charismatic leader persuading the doubters and the disenfranchised to join with him in a battle where the odds against them seem insurmountable,  I had thoughts of Barak Obama throughout the play, making it timely as well as entertaining.

In NZ theatre terms there is a veritable army of actors, but then again, they do have to enact battle scenes including the finale, on the fields of Agincourt. Lawrence’s cast is totally committed, from those with tiny but important roles through to the stars.

Alex Greig’s Henry V has a certain vulnerability and youthful recklessness that is extremely appealing, and suits the tone of the production, with its mix of old world and current day – sharpened wooden poles and cellphones happily co-exist.

Others who stand out include Alison Walls who’s terrific as the Chorus/ narrator and as the French Katherine, Jackson Coe’s handsome roguish Pistol, David Goldthorpe who knows how to turn the Archbishop of Canterbury’s tediously long monologue into a ripping yarn, and Allan Henry shines as the characterful French Constable. To name but a few is simply an issue of the review word count, the entire cast is fantastic.

The words fly out of the mouths of the cast, sometimes a little too quickly, but even so it’s three hours of theatre, outdoors.  Take cushions and warm clothes and enjoy theatre under the stars.  The cast even provide musical entertainment at intermission. What a team.


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Cry God for Harry his iPod and the stilt walker

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 16th Feb 2009

It was hard to concentrate on the Summer Shakespeare 2009 production of Henry V, which opened in the amphitheatre outside Studio 77 on Friday night, what with a marmalade cat wandering amongst the audience, an official photographer clicking away continuously right behind me, and ‘the icy fang and churlish chiding of the winter’s wind’ freezing my limbs.

This Henry V is a Classic Comic version that has on the cartoonish programme cover Henry sporting a paper crown, an iPod, and sunglasses, while on stage there are motor cars, a romp that is the Battle of Agincourt which includes a stilt walker and the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Ely playing fisticuffs with a French soldier.

The ladies of the French court, including Princess Katherine, are dressed as Vestal Virgins, there’s a punk Corporal Nym with a Mohawk and Union Jack shirt, and "this star of England" dresses down in basketball boots, board shorts, baseball cap, and t-shirt to be, presumably, one of the boys. It’s all very Baz Luhrmann but without his consistency of style.

However, every now and then something of the complexities and ambiguities of the play concerning war, leadership, and morality peep through and one wishes that a less Blackadderish approach had been taken.

The marvelous "a little touch of Harry in the night" scene becomes a full-blown debate in which Harry and Williams (Daniel Watterson) and Bates (Victoria Morgan) put forth their arguments under a blazing light to each other and to the audience. In the background in semi-darkness stand rows of silent soldiers.

There’s a long fight (not in the script) between Harry and the Constable (Allan Henry) that took on the air of a titanic clash between epic heroes such as Ajax and Hector that Shakespeare wants his hero compared to. This fight brought forth nervous laughter, unlike the laughter brought forth from the ludicrous Battle of Agincourt, because they fought so ferociously.

And the gentler comedy of the wooing scene, with Harry fumbling with his cue cards and Katherine flitting about the room like a nervous bird is played with subtlety and warmth. Alison Walls (who doubles as an excellent, clear-spoken Chorus) is clearly of royal blood and charming with it, while Louise Burston, as the lady-in-waiting Alice, is quietly very funny looking down her nose at this English intruder.

Alex Greig displays all the attributes of a heroic leader and he allows us to feel, at times keenly, the moral dilemmas the young king faces even when his spiritual advisers are clearly unprincipled nincompoops and his enemies puny. Not only does he give the terrible order to kill all the prisoners he is also prepared to carry it out. It’s a strong performance that would be so much more effective if the production had been less of a hodgepodge.


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Henry V

Review by John Smythe 14th Feb 2009

Bloody war. Why do we do it? Shakespeare’s Henry V reminds us: land and power. The ‘women’ part of the usual equation becomes a spoil of war rather than a reason. And in a fanciful romantic ending, the English King Henry’s acquiring of France’s Princess Katherine thus foments mutual love! Except that, it seems, is what actually happened.

But there is more to Henry V than history. In writing this play – to link his Henry VI trilogy and Richard III (written first) to Richard II and Henry IV parts 1 & 2 (written before he wrote Henry V) – Shakespeare explores the moral dilemmas inherent in wielding power and waging war.

These are the most abiding elements in this Summer Shakespeare 2009 production directed by David Lawrence. (This Victoria University of Wellington season follows preview performances at Gladstone Vineyard in the Wairarapa). As has become the norm, both for Summer Shakespeare and Lawrence-directed classics, a large cast of varying skills and experience delivers the play with great clarity, intelligence, humour and well-directed energy.

Being well down the line of succession, young Henry was not exactly groomed for power and misspent much of his youth with dissolute knights like Sir John Falstaff and his petty criminal mates. In the final scene he tells Katherine that if she spoke English she would find him "such a plain King" that she’d think he’d sold his farm to buy his crown. So a lack of courtliness in Henry is not only valid but crucial.

International sports teams competing for supremacy was the first thought the simple and mostly contemporary costuming provoked in me: The Reds (England) versus The Blues (France). Then what with the King and Queen of France wearing golden crowns while Henry wears a crown-branded baseball cap, the notion of a republican overthrow occurred. And it is true that – aside from being hands-on in the actual front line of battle – this warmongering Henry reeks more of today’s presidents than our monarchs.

Shakespeare orientated his play to reflect the political situation with Ireland, since it opened soon after the popular Earl of Essex had put down an Irish rebellion, so in his honour we do the same, even if it means reversing our perception of the monarchy v republic conflict. Not that the play demands we take sides. While it is hard not to empathise with Henry and want him to win, we are also well-placed to observe, consider and reconsider what having such power entails.

Alex Greig is riveting as he tracks the King’s progress from ‘one of the lads’ to monarch and commander-in-chief, talked into going to war by the insidiously manipulative clergy (David Goldthorpe bringing due eminence to the Archbishop of Canterbury while James Barber’s half-saved Bishop of Ely points up the unholy dimensions of the church’s machinations).

King Henry’s key moments of threshold-crossing, moral dilemma-confronting and listening instead of talking are clearly marked by Lawrence and astutely played by Greig, compelling us to ask where we would stand, in such circumstances, between the poles of ruthless assertiveness and compassionate forgiveness. (The first testing days of Barrack Obama’s presidency come to mind.) In a brilliant stroke, Tony Catford’s Falstaff – not scripted to appear on stage – is shown as an ailing street beggar, proffering his battered tankard to the newly-ascended King, who can only move on.

Alison Walls excels in the dual roles of Chorus and Katherine.

In a spirit of open enquiry she welcomes us into "this wooden O" (it was Henry V which opened the Globe at Bankside), introducing each act and conjuring the locations and offstage actions that link them, weaving the very magic whereby such an epic tale may be played out in this mini-amphitheatre outside Studio 77 (whence they will repair in inclement weather).

To Katherine she brings a delightful blend of innocence and sophistication, propriety and abandonment. I cannot imagine her being realised better. The English lesson with her maid Alice – perfectly pitched by Louise Burton – is a gem, and the process by which she succumbs to Henry’s idiosyncratic courting is another. Such is the vulnerability both bring to the scene that it is impossible not to see its resolution as totally sincere.

Allan Henry’s Lord Constable, leader of the French forces, is another stand-out performance. He epitomises the arrogance, skill, brinksmanship and mateship of the professional soldier. And his choreography of the fight scenes is extraordinary, more emblematic than realistic before it becomes a gasp-inducing one-on-one with Henry.  

Alex Rabina’s Dauphin, Hannah McKie’s Montjoy, Cathy Gamba’s Monsieur le Fer and Suzie Evans’ Queen Isabel all add special value amid the vasty range of French characters.

The English side is even larger with barely a weak note among them. Christopher deSousa Smith’s mellifluous Welsh Captain Fluellen neatly navigates the line between dupe and valiant soldier, finally delivering an excellent lesson in how to stop a pistol with a leek.    

Jackson Coe’s petty-thieving Pistol is memorably self-interested. Jack O’Donnell’s would-be punk Nym is wonderfully devastated at losing Amelia Wilcox’s Nell Quickly in wedlock to Pistol. Benyamin Albert’s fearful Bardolph touches our hearts when brought to account before his old drinking mate Henry. Jessica Aaltonen’s clown-like Boy shows what it is to grow up too quickly – and die too soon – in the midst of a war.

Jonny Potts is clear and strong as the Duke of Exeter, Daniel Watterson brings everyman focus to the famous scene where Henry goes among his men in disguise to discover their thoughts and feeling on the even of the battle of Agincourt – although why Lawrence has him, as the solder Michael Williams, dressed as a cloth-capped worker as if he’s back in London, escapes me.

Given a total cast of 35 it is a great achievement on everyone’s part that each character, named or otherwise, is totally aligned to the import of every beat. No-one simply dresses the set. Everyone has found a place to stand and a way to be in every scene that illuminates the whole with credibility and meaning.

The sense of debilitation could be accentuated more, the night before the morning of Agincourt, to give Henry a greater challenge in rallying his troops to fight against all odds (his famous speech is one many a coach tries to emulate during a world cup tournament). Initially I thought breaking out a chilly bin of Coke after the battle was a cheap gag but on reflection it’s entirely valid to pull the plug on any vicarious pride we may be feeling at their victory: this is war and war is crass.  

But no such quibbles can detract from the extraordinary achievement of this production. The Summer Shakespeare Henry V marks a brilliant start to the Compleate Workes project. Catch it if you can: the opportunity to see a large-cast production of such vitality and overall excellence is unlikely to recur in the foreseeable future.


Dawn Sanders February 16th, 2009

Totally concur with your well deserved and described review of Summer Shakespeare's Henry V, John. Fantastic start to Wellington's contributions to SGCNZ's Compleate Workes 2009

Having seen this Henry  at the Kernohan's Gladstone Vineyard (in 33oC) and in Wellington (in 13oC  or thereabouts!) the quality and total sincerity of acting, clever staging by direct David Lawrence and team are so consistent and commendable, everyone who has ever considered going to a Shakespeare production should not miss this stand-out production.

For SGCNZ it is exciting to see David, who was in its first Sheilah Winn Festivals of Shakespeare in Schools, engage so many of our Alumni - Alex Grieg (in the Festival in 1996) as Henry; Allan Henry  as the striking Fight Choreographer and Constable; stunning Alison Walls, Louise Burston, Jackson Coe, Fiona McNamara, Karin Reinholt, Ralph Upton who have been NSSP/SGCNZ Young Shakespeare Company members and all those other names I recall typing into Festival programmes...even our volunteers, Tony Catford , Mike Brady and Suzie Evans - in their various roles. ..and Production Manager, Simon Vincent.

Shakespeare is certainly alive and Very well in his infinite variety. Congrats to the entire Henry team, including Producer Jacqueline Coats, who will be an SGCNZ NSSP Director this year. Now check out the website www.compleateworkes.co.nz for Evensongs on 22 Feb and a plethora of Shakespeare to relish all year! - Dawn Sanders CEO SGCNZ & Manager Compleate Workes 2009

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