Newcastle University Theatre Society (widely known as NUTS) has a set criteria for show selection. One section of the society is dedicated to doing a piece of Renaissance theatre each year. This year it is Shakespeare’s Henry V.
A usual Henry V rehearsal starts with a game of Ninja Warriors. The game is a fierce battle around a circle, dodging and attempting to strike each other’s hands. The battle turns into a fierce showdown between the final two, with only one victor.
The second warm up is a game of Lord of The Rings version of Zip Zap Bong using quotes from the film. Hilarity ensues as the cast shout “You shall not pass!” and “Take the Ring”.
Rehearsals for Henry V are daily and for at least two hours. The dedication of the cast is apparent as they volunteer their best regional accents for the roles of Welsh and Irish characters. Not only are accents part of the challenge, but old fashioned English remains for the complete dialogue of the play.
The task of directing one of Shakespeare’s most well-known history plays is undertaken by Adam Stubbs and Dan Galvin with producer Amy Bennett. When asked why, Galvin explains that “…it has some of the best speeches Shakespeare has ever written.” Winston Churchill instructed Laurence Olivier to turn this play into a morale boosting film for the troops in World War II. The weight of the importance on nationhood keeps this play relevant in today’s society when considering the Scottish bid for Independence.
To modernise the play, Stubbs explains “…during the English court scenes they are all going to be wearing formal attire and suits and then in the battle scenes they are going to be wearing modern military camo [sic] gear.” This follows the similar way NUTS presented Romeo and Juliet last year, with a 1920’s dress. Further to this, the weapons used on stage will be modernised, showing a more modern and relevant military.
An argument is given of why the content of Shakespeare’s work does not need to be modernised, Galvin says “It’s got all the themes that carry on throughout humanity and history.” Stubbs adds “It covers all the bases of what makes a story a good story and what makes a play a good play, it’s got relatable characters, all the characters are human.”
Henry V follows the story of the young King attempting to hold his claim on France and the battle against all odds to victory. Marriage is arranged between Katherine of France and Henry of England, forming the romance aspect of the play.
Henry V will be performed from the 28th until the 30th of Novemeber. For more information follow their website: www.nuts-theatre.co.uk
By James Dix