The Magnificent Harry Judge Makes HENRY V a Relatable Ruler
Highly Recommended: Theatre In Chicago
William Shakespeare, above all other things, was a wordsmith in its purest definition. Who else could take one of the bloodiest wars to date, depict the carnage with visceral palpability, yet allow a director of the piece never to show a drop of red? In my estimation, only the Bard himself could accomplish this near impossible task. His brilliance of story and relationships is again brought to fruition in Chicago Shakespeare’s high-octane production of Henry V, where under the masterful eye of acclaimed British actor/director Christopher Luscombe, this epic play about the 1415 Battle of Agincourt becomes a humanistic story about friendship, trust, love and compassion.
Written in 1599, Henry V is one of Shakespeare’s clearest plays in both character arch and structure as we see an almost coming of age story of England’s King who after much prayer and consult, decides to take his claim over the French throne. As tyrannical as this act may be, Shakespeare is able to make Henry’s conflict and journey relatable. To this end, Harry Judge’s performance as Henry V is utterly breathtaking to watch. Mr. Judge creates a youthful and complex ruler whose internal notions of justice makes his outward decisions in the battlefield and with his lady Katherine (the always sensational Laura Rook) a relatable truth. Because so much of Henry’s actions are completive, Mr. Judge’s performance is all the more remarkable.
Though the term may be over-simplified and misused, Mr. Luscombe is an actors’ director proven here, the players are allowed a stretch in ways geared to performers’ particular strengths. Here, Luscombe has surrounded his leading man an exceptional cast including the great Greg Vinkler (in a duo role), who again shows his range as one the best Shakespearian actors working today as his comic phrasing is unmatched. Samuel Taylor also uses his unique vocal phrasing to great success as both Captain Macmorris and Dauphin.
The technically triumphant design trio of Kevin Depinet (set), Mariann S. Verheyen (costumes) and Philip S. Rosenberg (lighting) all converge seamlessly to further the story and allowing the actors to work their magic to take us to a time certain where the humanity of one ruler shaped a hundred year war whose aftermath is still felt today.
Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s production of Henry V plays through June 15, 2014 at CST’s Courtyard Theatre. For more information visit www.chicagoshakes.com. For calendar information visit www.theatreinchicago.com