Lismore production offers a new take on Shakespeare classic
BELL Shakespeare's latest production, Henry V, once again delves into a reality not often visited - a parallel universe that aids the telling of the story.
In the production, presented by NORPA at Lismore City Hall on September 19 and 20, director Damien Ryan puts a contemporary take on this classic tale about a king who unites a nation with his eloquent words and ideas is inspired by a true story.
For 57 consecutive nights during the Blitz in 1941, a group of boys stuck in a bunker started a Boy's Club, where they would rehearse a new play each week, including Shakespeare's works and then perform it for the other people in the shelter.
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"We don't know which Shakespeare plays they performed, but with England on the precipice and Churchill comparing the fighter pilots to the "happy few" at Agincourt, it is hard to imagine that a Henry V would not have struck their hearts," Mr Ryan said.
In the Bell Shakespeare production, the play is set during the Blitz and students, teachers and other school staff are hiding out in a school room during the bombings.
Actor Danielle King plays a number of roles in the production.
She said the play holds certain relevance today with the current conflicts in places like Syria and Gaza.
In this production, there are two realities going on, with what's happening in the Shakespeare play itself, and in the other world, that of the people hiding out during the Blitz.
"There are moments in the play that the worlds cross over and something that happens in the real world triggers the play to continue (and vice versa)."
"I'd recommend it to anyone who has seen Shakespeare or anyone who hasn't seen Shakespeare."
"The way we're telling the story, it doesn't feel like I'm speaking Shakespeare."
However, the integrity of Shakespeare is no less there, she said.
They also don't shy away from the controversies surrounding Henry V, Mrs King explains.
"It's not a black and white 'war is good', 'Henry was a great king', 'he was a great leader', because he wasn't - He was found guilty posthumously of war crimes," she said.
"Henry made decisions as any leader would have to. We don't shy away from that - it leaves those questions open."
Henry V is a very audience-involving play, she said, as a result of the very simple nature of the props and set - fitting into what would have been available in the hideout.
"We ask them (the audience) to join us in thinking about the themes," Mrs King said.
"We use whatever is in the room to tell the story. So it's got that element of using your imagination.
"We don't do all the work for you, but we help you along."
She said it's been an amazing experience being part of a Bell Shakespeare production - her first ever.
"It's always been one of my ambitions to work with one of the best theatre companies in Australia," she said.
"It really is a show I'm incredibly proud of and the cast is great."
Mrs King is also looking forward to bringing the show to the Northern Rivers for another reason - she is a former Byron Bay resident.
"I met my husband in Byron - I went travelling and got lost in Byron like many travelLers have done," she laughed.
"(My husband and I) love Byron; we get up there two or three times a year."
"I'm thrilled to be coming back to the shire, I love it up there."
"I can't wait to get the cast to the Bay on our day off."