Where: Marylebone Gardens, 35 Marylebone High Street, London W1U 4QA
£: 16 (concessions 10)
What is it?
Theatre Delicatessen’s take on Henry V is currently on at Marylebone Gardens (the old BBC London offices). The pop up theatre makers are staging the play in the basement of the building and have gone to great lengths to convert it into army barracks perched in a 20th century war-zone.
From the moment you enter the building you are fully immersed in the play. Be prepared for inspection before being taken down into the ‘barracks’ by one of the squadies and shown around the quarters. A great deal of attention has been paid to the set up of the building complete with bunks, a control room, and even a dart board.
The audience sits amongst the actors on a selection of seating including sacks, benches, stools and pews. The play kicks off with a bomb blast and so begins a trek into war and death with one of Shakespeare’s more serious plays. As a modern take on the play there are some genuinely great little touches such as the use of beer bottles instead of swords when a brawl takes place, and the attempt at wooing with some cheap flowers from the garage. The use of modern music, sound effects and voice overs that sound like war-time radio broadcasts also works well.
It’s a long drawn out play and demands quite a bit of your attention, especially if you are not familiar with the play or its characters. I’d say it’s probably not for everyone and I have to admit I prefer a Shakespeare comedy. However there were a few comic moments especially those with the French ladies that gave the audience a much-needed laugh.
Theatre Delicatessen asks the audience to view Henry V in a new light, posing pertinent questions about our collective decisions to go to war, and the impact this has on both those who fight, and those who are left behind. So fittingly as the play ends with England and France signing a pact, seemingly sorting out their differences, the last word warns that war will break out again causing more bloodshed.