Although a history play, the best moments in Illyria’s rain-soaked, open-air production of Henry V were the marvellous comic scenes. With only five players and no scenery, the need for quick changes of clothes and character added to the sense of fun and informality. The reconstruction of Agincourt using a garden rake, a cricket bat and some toy arrows was ingenious. The drama and gravitas of the politics and war, however, were not overshadowed. James Dangerfield as Henry was powerful and imposing. And the weather gave an added realism to the grim “rainy marching in the painful field” of Act Four. The downpours forged a strong bond between soaked players and stoical, sodden audience – a band of brothers against the elements – which made for a quite memorable evening.
Brighton Evening Argos
The great speeches were made to come over perfectly – "Once more unto the breech" was done in the midst of real smoke, and "St Crispin's Day" was beautifully articulated. In fact, first-rate articulation and projection was a feature of every single performance.
Illyria has a well-earned reputation for its open air performances; using limited props, no microphones, amplifiers or scenery and encouraging the audience’s imagination. James Dangerfiled in the titular role did a superb job of juxtaposing the young and reckless King Harry’s complex character, shifting between willful, proud and hungry for war, to bouts of fear, anger and self-doubt as the Battle of Agincourt looms. He, and the other actors, were also adept at slipping from emotionally charged scenes to the mood-lightning escapades of the smaller players, such as Pistol, Nymph and Bardolph. The cast also had fun playing with stereotypes of the English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh and French, particularly in the battles scenes where they made the most of the limited production value, giving an extra air of authenticity in echoing how things would have looked from travelling troupes back in the Shakespearian era.
The Hague Online
Illyria’s performance of Henry V has all the qualities which have made Oliver Gray’s productions so popular. James Dangerfield in the title role produces an outstanding portrayal of a man imbued, to the point of obsession, with a belief in the importance of his kingship, his England and his words – and all these in God’s name. However this show is very far from a one man band and its success is based on very strong and typically Illyrian ensemble playing and a host of inventive and often comic touches. Wisely the cast of just five almost parody the battle scenes with mock arrows, swordfights and detached arms and legs, but the seriousness of the history-making Battle of Agincourt is always kept in view.