Arguably one of Shakespeare’s finest History Plays, this one-person adaptation features historical accuracy with much of Shakespeare’s original text and an original music score by Robbie Williams. A modern day Chorus takes us back to the dark dangerous days of 1415, when an insulting gift of tennis balls from the headstrong Prince Dauphin of France provokes King Harry of England. These two young leaders eventually meet in a bloody war that climaxes with the Battle of Agincourt. The subjects of provocation, invasion and who holds the moral rights to a just war are as relevant today as they were in 1415.
This spirited production has been celebrated around the world and now, to mark Maverick Theatre’s 21st Birthday, is touring again offering 70 minutes edge-of-the-seat excitement.
“A towering, quicksilver show… quite brilliant.” Stratford-upon-Avon Herald
“A Henry V to stir the imagination. A truly vivid theatrical experience, comic, ironic and deeply moving. The arrows hiss upwards and you chill inside… a miracle. The battle sequence at Agincourt is a tour de force.” Birmingham Post
“Hennegan’s Henry is an adventure story for today… this will surely exorcise the ghost of schoolroom Shakespeare for good. Theatre at its best. Cry God for Harry, Shakespeare and Nick Hennegan” Birmingham Evening Mail
“A tremendous story… a truly superb theatrical experience – highly recommended.” Edinburgh Fringe News
Maverick is a not-for-profit company launched by the Lord Mayor of Birmingham in 1994 with a mission to increase access to the performing arts.
First published Saturday 10 November 2007 in Stage
by Rachel Wareing
When director Nick Hennegan heard his 'Henry V - Lion of England' was to be staged on Remembrance Sunday, he planned to drop a cloud of poppies onto the stage at the end of each performance. The plan was foiled by technical constraints but he is still believes the significance of the day will resonate with audience members. Critics have always argued about whether Shakespeare intended Henry V to celebrate war or expose its follies, but the Maverick Theatre artistic director is firmly in the latter camp.
"I don't know that it's possible to make a play about war that's not anti-war. Henry V to me is about the futility of war," says Hennegan. Ethics aside, the Maverick's play - a condensed, solo performance of the original - is at heart a "good romp". "It's sad in parts but in other parts there's a real rumbustiousness to it," he says. Tomorrow's play kicks off the Brighton Dome's annual season of Shakespeare for children and although Maverick Theatre's version was not produced specifically for youngsters, its simplified text does lend itself to a younger audience. Hennegan describes his interpretation as a "greatest hits". Some of the more arcane phrases such as "shall we shog" (meaning "shall we go") have been replaced with their modern equivalents but the most celebrated parts of the text, such as the St Crispin's Day speech, remain.
The Birmingham playwright sat down to write his adaptation one night in 1992 after a few drinks down the pub. "I thought there might be another more accessible way of presenting this great play. I only knew one actor when I wrote it, so I decided to make it for one person." he says. "Obviously it's cheaper touring with one person but there's also an extra intimacy there. It's the story of Chorus, really, Shakespeare's everyman storyteller. Shakespeare's original uses a Chorus to move the story along. I've just taken that concept a stage further "
It was first performed at the Midlands Arts Centre, where it was spotted by Brum comedian Jasper Carrott's manager, who persuaded them to take it to the Edinburgh Festival. The experience ignited Nick's love of fringe theatre and he came back to Birmingham and set up Maverick. Although the play has already been on tour along the east coast of America, this is the first UK tour. Partly this is down to the complexity of the behind-the-scenes work. The cast list may be short - just oneactor playing a total of 12 characters - but there are also more than 400 light and sound cues throughout the performance. "The technical level is more akin to a West End show," said Hennegan. "There's very little time for the actor to rest. Not many actors have got the physicality to sustain a piece for an hour and a half. "They usually lose a lot of weight and there are injuries too, with all the flailing around. It's tough vocally, too, as they're doing everything from little whispered prayers to loud battle cries."