France becomes the EU and England becomes the worst of its lager swilling, hooligan stereotypes in Loveday Ingram’s interpretation of Henry V. The war at the centre of Shakespeare’s history play is framed as hopeless and gory, even at the very crux of King Henry’s (Joseph Millson) valour. The focus is on the battlefield and brutal quest for victory by any means, yet Grosvenor Park Open Air theatre’s version is curiously bloodless.
Nothing in this production feels deep enough, from development of characters to the Brexit metaphor that looms large in flags and symbols. Millson makes for a statesman-like Henry, delivering his speeches with the necessary gravitas if not always the required volume. But there is no complexity to his hunger for power or warmongering. The outcome of the war, despite the sheer amount of on and off stage death, feels inconsequential.
Henry’s love interest Katherine (Sarah-Jane Potts) – the daughter of France – gives light relief in her language lessons with lady’s maid Alice (Mitesh Soni). Seren Vickers is strong as comedy Welsh super-soldier Fluellen, as is Samuel Collings, channelling some hard-lad Trainspotting energy as arrogant Private Pistol. But the latter’s enforced fellatio of a leek by Vickers has more shock factor than the rest of the drama’s total body count.