A FRINGE theatre company staging one of Shakespeare’s most complex plays with the director also playing the title role could be a recipe for disaster, especially with the RSC as your nextdoor neighbours.
Far from it – rarely have I seen Shakespeare performed so accessibly.
From the moment Dawn Bush, our guide and chorus beams an engaging smile and wishes ‘Oh for a muse of fire’ the theatre disappeared and the audience was transported to an England where a prince has become a King and inherited a very dangerous throne – one where he must preside over an England at war with itself.
The complex early scenes were so well handled by all the players, the audience was not preached to or shouted at, nor did they have to spend ten minutes tuning into the language as the actors indulged in the richness of the text.
The words were delivered with clarity, respect but most importantly as interesting conversation. Consequently the plot was clear, as were the characters and where they stood in the pecking orders of the plot and intrigue.
John-Robert Partridge as Henry makes a charismatic monarch, charming all he comes into contact with – a gentle and intelligent warrior. So when our Harry is insulted by the French Dauphin and chooses to take England to war against France, who could resist marching beside him?
Princess Katherine, wooed by the King, was also beautifully played by Joanne Amaral.
There was no weak link or moment in this production and the cross-gender blindness and multi-role playing is joyously oblivious and seamless with more costume changes than the London Fashion Week catwalk.
Technically the period music and battle soundtrack along with excellent staging and lighting added harmonious dimensions.
Special mentions to Edward Manning as the King of France, David McCarthy as Captain Fluellen and James Tanton as Pistol and one more touch of the cap to the very talented Mr Partridge on both his direction and truly royal performance.
Tread the Boards is a fringe company at the very top of its game and Stratford should be as proud to have it.
The show runs at The Attic until the end of April.