Kate Besworth in Henry V
Photo: Tim Matheson


Bard on the Beach
Henry V
by William Shakespeare, adapted by Lois Anderson

When & Where June 28 – August 13, 2023, evenings at 7.30, Sundays at 2pm | Howard Family Stage, Vanier Park

Director Lois Anderson Set Designer Amir Ofek Sound, Music Director and Composer Pankanea Lighting Designer Sophie Tang Costume Designer Mara Gottler Choreography & Fight Director Jonathan Hawley Purvis

Reviewer Christian Steckler

Many of Shakespeare’s plays recount adventures and misadventures of powerful people - rulers and courtiers, and people of privilege. Several include royal intrigue, unrest, violence and war. Henry V is one of these. In her insightful adaptation of the play, Lois Anderson focuses on the effects of violence and war on the individuals and societies involved. The result is moving and thought-provoking for the audience, bringing, in this reviewer’s opinion, a deeper appreciation of Shakespeare’s work.

Anderson’s direction centres the action of the players on the emotional and spiritual effects of power plays, and the violence and social disruption that come from war. We are drawn to appreciate the rare moments of sweetness in friendship, personal loyalty and romance that most often go unnoticed in the noise and tumult of war.

The players - all excellent - are presented as a troupe of entertainers, attending to tell us the story of Henry V’s exploits early in his reign. Kate Besworth as King Henry V was a bit of a shock to this reviewer at the beginning, but her powerful acting talent and emotional versatility put that to rest almost immediately. Emilie Leclerc was the audience’s guide throughout the performance, an important role (amongst her others) because she focused attention on important nuances and areas of consideration intended in the adaptation. She was especially brilliant in this role.

Craig Erickson, Karthik Kadam, Tom Pickett, and Munish Sharma were charming as the rascals Pistol, Bardolf, Nym and Falstaff respectively (among their other roles). Their ability to bring humanly sensitive moments to life in uncertain times, during tests of loyalty, wartime battles and moments of personal betrayal was stellar. Billy Marchenski was superb as Exeter, the king’s uncle and general in war. His steely, cold-hearted presence was truly convincing, especially during heated battle, when his facial expressions took us deep into the reality of his passionate brutality. Marlee Griffiths was a delightful picture of gentle innocence as French Princess Katherine, and Advah Soudack as the French herald (among other roles) mastered at sarcasm and wise cracks when appropriate occasions arose. Altogether, the “troupe” played and sang and danced and fought masterfully, engaging the audience throughout the evening.

All this was done with the barest of sets and properties - perfectly appropriate for Shakespearean productions. A fabric set, reminding one of camouflage, surrounded the audience and play space, giving great impact to, and magnifying, lighting and sound effects. Costumes and props were of a timeless quality, with no certain historical place. This perfectly suited the inescapable message that wars always were, and always will be. It is for us to search out and appreciate the instances of love and light during such times, because those, too, always were, and always will be.

© 2023 Christian Steckler