Unlike Cymbeline, Henry V is pretty familiar ground. If you don’t know the play you may at least know the history. There have been two major film adaptations; Laurence Olivier’s in 1944 and Kenneth Branagh’s in 1989. Some of the speeches are often quoted; “band of brothers”; “once more into the breach”; especially in movies with military themes and to adolescent boys in movies with sports metaphors.
They play is a good ‘starter’ Shakespeare for boys actually. There is a lot sword fighting, battles and threats of battles. There’s more testosterone on the stage than in any other Shakespeare play I can think of with possible exception of Coriolanus. By Shakespearean standards there’s relatively little romance and what is there is of the clumsy “aw’ shucks” variety that would resonate for adolescent males.
Camping on the narration in the text, the concept is play-within-a-play. All of the actors enter at the beginning in contemporary street clothes making the bare set look more like “Rent” than one of Shakespeare’s history. Then they leave the stage and the action commences in traditional period costumes. Subsequent narration is by actors in the play, occasionally with different accents than their characters.
It is a matter of personal taste rather than any obvious flaws but I did not enjoy this production as much as I had hoped to. It is a play I like very much and was looking forward to seeing. Sadly it was a disappointment in a week of outstanding theater.