Arts & Culture

Classic battle epic strewn with much humour

By Lorraine Graves

Published 3:20 PDT, Thu June 27, 2019

Last Updated: 12:36 PDT, Tue July 16, 2019

Richmond’s Sheby Wyminga strikes a regal air as Henry V and offers a louche persona as the Fonzie-esque Dauphin in Shakespeare’s eponymous play.

Richmond’s Sheby Wyminga strikes a regal air as Henry V and offers a louche persona as the Fonzie-esque Dauphin in Shakespeare’s eponymous play. 

With a multitude of roles and only 11 actors, simple costume modifications made it clear whether characters fought for England or France, with the French soldiers having a fleur-de-lys on their lapels. 

It took a minute to catch onto the difference but the sometimes French accents made the Shakespearian English harder to understand. The jokes in French, though, really worked. 

Wyminga, ending her apprentice year with Pacific Theatre, shines as both an actor and a producer calling Henry V “a team effort.” Under the direction of Kerri Norris and associate director, who is also called “movement wizard,” Nicole Deslauriers, Henry V’s many scenes and moods create a play that holds together, evokes emotions and causes spontaneous laughter. 

Young Cayleigh Elcheseshen as the child in the play held her own amongst the adults, adding a very youthful flavour often missing from performances of the Bard’s plays. 

In Shakespeare’s day, all roles were played by men, even the female ones. So gender bending is nothing new in these plays. Today, at Pacific Theatre, turn about is fair play. 

Like hanging out at a YWCA, it seemed perfectly natural that all the roles but one were taken by women. 

The staging was simple and innovative. It rarely lacked for clarity of where the scene was set or who was in it. Kudos to stage manager Natalie Hoogstra, fight director Stephen Elcheshen, sound designer/composer Tyler Dumoulin, and lighting designer Nigel Brooke for a cohesive production of this Shakespearian epic. 

Shakespeare wrote for the high-paying posh audience in the higher seats but he also wrote the naughty bits and off-colour puns for the penny stinkers, literally the great unwashed masses that filled the vast floor area of his theatres. The serious historic theme of this battle drama has generous comic relief. 

And in that comic relief came a second stand-out performer. Paige Fraser as Pistol wouldn’t have been out of place at Bard on the Beach. Her comic turns and timing had the audience in stitches throughout the play. 

Scholars often say about Shakespeare’s plays: if it ends in a wedding, it’s a comedy and if it ends with everyone dead, it’s a tragedy but in Henry V, the rules are broken. While there are many bodies strewn about the battlefield, the play (spoiler alert) ends with a wedding. 

With it hard to tell the student performers from the professionals, Henry V is worth taking in. At $15 a ticket it is affordable, accessible Shakespeare at Twelfth Avenue and Hemlock Street. Accessible by transit. After-hours street parking usually available. The venue has some wheelchair accessible seating. 

The house was about one-fifth empty and with this version of Henry V running only through Saturday, June 29, I suggest you support emerging actors and see it. Not only will you have an enjoyable evening while supporting these artists, you will get bragging rights so you can say, “I saw them when…”

While you’re at it, check out the entire Stone’s Throw Festival at Pacific Theatre through July 6. 

Click for tickets to Henry V and the Stone’s Throw Festival.  

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