Sunday, July 22, 2012

a little touch of Harry in the park

The Bay Area's free touring Shakespeare in the Park is in Cupertino this week, so I wandered over to see Henry V. That's the Henry who conquered France, if you have trouble keeping all those Henries straight.

It was a good, professional performance with a small, versatile cast. You need a strong Henry, and in Craig Marker they had a strong Henry: big, bluff, commanding voice, and spoke the Harfleur and Agincourt speeches as if he meant them, while trying to bluff through the midnight and courting scenes as if he felt he ought to be able to command those as he did armies. Good work from others, as well: Jack Powell in all the old man parts, Ryan Tasker and Michael Wisely comically ethnic as Fluellen and Pistol, and Maggie Mason kept the "Kate recites the English names for body parts" scene from being dull.

Most impressive was the tech. The amplification from body mikes was nearly flawless, and they did it without making the actors dress up as telephone operators, either. Costuming and setting was vaguely WW1-ish, without the clothes getting too specific, though the French did wear those French army hats, the kepi; but the only anachronism that really jarred was having the English wave a Union Jack around. The part of the Chorus was traded around among several actors, and scene changes were frequently marked by singing of a verse or so from a variety of old war and otherwise appropriate songs, including a verse from Parry's "Jerusalem" and bits from the Steeleye versions of "Rogues in a Nation" and "Fighting for Strangers."

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