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Henry VI review at Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff – ‘ambitious and daring’

The cast of Henry VI at Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff Photo: Kirsten McTernan

Following last year’s all-female production of Richard III, Omidaze Productions returns to the Wales Millennium Centre with an emotionally charged piece of promenade theatre.

The Centre’s roof void acts as stage once more, the vast room and industrial aesthetic lending themselves well to a production that revels in both grit and grandeur. Technically, Henry VI is astonishing, not least in the discomforting harmony between Tic Ashfield’s Lynchian score and Elanor Higgins’ nightmarish lighting. Gabriella Slade’s stripped-back set gives the production a timeless quality, enhancing the play’s overt nods to contemporary conflict.

Director Yvonne Murphy set herself the task of bridging three plays, and the side-effect of that ambitious process is an occasionally confusing narrative. Character development doesn’t suffer, thankfully, and the all-female cast of eight give incredibly strong performances. This is very much an ensemble piece, though as the only aerialist in the company, Hannah O’Leary perhaps inevitably stands out as Henry, even if her circus skills often feel shoehorned into the production.

In terms of innovation, the production really soars and Murphy deserves plaudits for attempting to present Shakespeare in such a bold and refreshing fashion. It’s a remarkable achievement, evidence of a director whose skill matches the daring of her vision.

Verdict
Ambitious, vividly staged and skilfully directed all-female promenade production

Production

Production
Henry VI
Venue
Wales Millennium Centre
City
Cardiff
Starts
February 1, 2016
Ends
February 20, 2016
Press night
February 3, 2016
Authors
William Shakespeare
Director
Yvonne Murphy
Set
Gabriella Slade
Lighting
Elanor Higgins
Sound
Tic Ashfield
Technical
Angharad Matthews (costume maker), Clementine Greeley (assistant costume maker), Bethany Seddon (design associate), Jacob Lucy (design assistant), Paul Evans (movement and circus director), Jacquie Crago (voice and text coach)
Stage manager
Louise Rouse
Production manager
Ange John
Cast includes
Louise Collins, Sioned Jones, Polly Kilpatrick, Shala Nyx, Hannah O’Leary, Suzanne Packer, Alice White, Lizzie Winkler
Producer
Omidaze Productions
Running time
3hrs