Review: Utah Shakespeare Festival brings dramatic comedy to ‘Henry V’

A scene from the Utah Shakespeare Festival's 2016 production of "Henry V." The festival received the largest share of the arts portion of the RAP tax disbursements, date not specified | Photo courtesy of the Utah Shakespeare Festival, St. George News

OPINION — Don’t let the fact that the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s “Henry V” is an historical play keep you from going to see it, it has enough humor and fighting for everyone to enjoy.

“Henry V” is the fifth of Shakespeare’s History cycle with five more to follow.  Sam Ashdown returns as Henry having portrayed the character in “Henry IV” parts one and two and again gives a solid performance.

The venue

Entering the new outdoor Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre in the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts on the Southern Utah University campus in Cedar City is a delight.

It has a larger stage than its predecessor and more seating – better seating even with slightly larger seats and plenty of leg room. It appeared that every seat had a great view of the stage as is the case in these types of theaters.  There were even cup holders for every seat, a definite plus.  

My only complaint was the occasional traffic noise.

The story

Henry has become king. He wants to increase his popularity with the other nobles and knows that an ancient law makes him the rightful heir to the throne of France and so he demands the French give up various domains.  

The Dauphin of France sends his answer back to Henry with a chest full of tennis balls.  Infuriated by this, Henry refers to them as “gunstones” and the campaign begins to conquer France.

All of his countrymen appear to be excited to fight for land they believe is theirs.  At the old tavern where Henry spent part of his wayward days, his former comrades are ready to join the fight.  They are worried that Henry’s former mentor and friend, Sir John Falstaff, is too ill to be part of the army.  Shortly before the army leaves for France, Falstaff dies.  While this is going on, Henry learns of some noblemen that are conspiring against him.  He has them arrested and then killed.

Arriving in France, Henry warns the army that they must be respectful of the people and their property.  Bardolph, one of Henry’s tavern friends, is found to have stolen from a church.  He is arrested and Henry has him hanged – this is one of the more powerful moments with Henry kneeling alone before Bardolph as he is left hanging.  It closes Act I and leaves a strong impression of his conflict between being King and friendship.

Greatly outnumbered and suffering from illness, Henry realizes he must seek out what his men are feeling.  He disguises himself in a long cloak and goes from camp to camp to find out what the morale is among the men.  He delivers his St. Crispin’s speech.  The next day they are victorious in battle with many Frenchmen being killed and very few of the English.  Henry kneels in prayer to thank God for His help in the battle truly believing that this is what God wanted.

The production

There were so many standout performances.  J. Todd Adams as Pistol brought the right amount of comic relief in an otherwise very dramatic play.  Sceri Sioux Ivers as The Boy was so good and professional it was hard to remember she’s still quite young.  The director, Brian Vaughn, used a number of women in male parts.  It actually was very effective.  Larry Bull as The Chorus and various other parts was exceptional with his narrative of what was happening along the way.

Perhaps my favorite part was a scene between Princess Katherine of France and her servant Alice.  Alice is trying to teach Katherine some English words.  Katherine, knowing one of Henry’s demands is for her hand in marriage, decides she needs to know some English.  It is so funny and so well done.  Leslie Lank and Elizabeth Broadhurst are to be commended for adding so much in such a short scene.

Written by Janet Leavitt for St. George News

Event details follow below

The Beverley Sorenson Center for the Arts 2016 | Site map courtesy of The Beverley; St. George News
The Beverley Sorenson Center for the Arts 2016 | Site map courtesy of The Beverley; St. George News

Event details

  • What: Utah Shakespeare Festival’s “Henry V”
  • When: June 27-Sept. 10 in revolving repertory with other shows
  • Where: Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre, 299 W. Center St., Cedar City
  • Ticket price: $32 to $73, with discounts for groups, students and seniors | detailed information here
  • Ticket purchase: By telephone 800-PLAYTIX or 752-9849 | online
  • Resources: Printable The Beverley Sorenson Center for the Arts Site Map

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.



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