Why did I so thoroughly enjoy last night’s performance of Henry V presented by the Shakespeare in the Ruins (SIR) theatre company?
Was it because I was overwhelmed with nostalgia? After a decade of performing at other venues in Winnipeg, the SIR company has finally returned to the Trappist Monastery Provincial Park. I’ve been to so many great performances there in the past– A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth and The Tempest to name just a few. It felt like a homecoming to be back at the park.
Was it because we were at the show with friends from Hong Kong we hadn’t seen since we moved back to Canada almost a year ago? Sandy, John and Tad are fellow teachers from the international school in Hong Kong where we worked for six years. They are spending a week with us here in Winnipeg and going to Henry V was a great way to kick off our time together.
Was it because the play was set in World War I and that alternate setting made the story interesting and thought-provoking? In December I saw a production of Romeo and Juliet set in the Middle East at the Manitoba Theatre Centre. It didn’t work at all in my opinion and detracted rather than added to my appreciation of the play! So I was skeptical of moving Henry V to a different time period even though I knew it had been done at Stratford in 1989. But the SIR production added so many little details from the World War I period, from authentic costumes to period music. They had the brilliant idea of making the Chorus a war photojournalist. The ambience felt ‘right’. The alternate setting enriched the play watching experience for me.
Was it because the play ended with a touch of romance? I’m a sucker for romance in a play or movie. Henry V concludes with a charming scene where Henry proposes to Catherine, the French princess.
Was it because the play moved quickly, was easy to follow and had a number of very funny scenes? Kenneth Branagh’s film version of Henry V virtually eliminated the comedy and turned the funny scenes into serious ones. The Winnipeg Free Press reviewer thought the play at SIR wasn’t serious enough and had too breezy a tone. She felt too much of the important text of the script had been left out. Maybe it was my buoyant mood but I loved the comedy and the fast pace of the SIR production. My attention was completely captured for the entire performance.
Maybe it was because it was the very best of summer evenings that Manitoba has to offer. The sky was a beautiful blue with fluffy clouds. There was only a slight breeze. There were no mosquitoes. It was the perfect temperature, not too cold or too hot.There was even a stunning Manitoba sunset to end the evening and impress our Hong Kong guests with the beauty of our prairie province.
Why did I enjoy the Shakespeare in the Ruins performance of Henry V so much? There were lots of reasons!
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