Review: Henry V
To properly understand Shakespeare's Henry V, you need to know that Henry's father usurped the throne from Richard II, so he lacked divine right. In other words, God did not place him on the throne to rule the people; his father's ambition did. Now he must prove that he is worthy of the crown and unite his people.
What better way to do that than to go to war?
So, yes, Henry V at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre is about war, and that's how this production will blow you away. The battle scenes alone are reason enough to see this show. They are fantastic in their design, and I guarantee that you will not see anything quite like it on any other stage right now.
In addition, you will get to see the brilliant performances of Samuel Taylor and Greg Vinkler. These two performers own the stage. Taylor's Dauphin is equally as unique and honest as his Captain Macmorris. He gives his characters a contemporary feel, which makes you forget that you are watching Shakespeare. Vinkler, on the other hand, is a clown of the highest order as Pistol, while his King Charles VI of France is quite the opposite, demanding the respect that you would expect to give a monarch.
Which brings me to the main problem with this production: Harry Judge as Henry V. While he is, without a doubt, a strong performer, I don't believe that he was the best fit for this role. He might have been better as a Prince Hal, or even as a Richard II. To be honest, I never believed a word he was saying as King Henry.
After all, the most important question of this entire play is: "Would you follow Henry V into battle?" The answer here is, "no." But overall, this show is well worth the price of admission. You'll get your laughs and battle scenes, plus a bit of romantic comedy. Make it a date night.