“Our boys have scored a triumph…”

curtain-call-625x364So read the review in the Stratford Herald for the 1913 King Edward VI production of Henry V at the Memorial Theatre, and the 2013 edition has been similarly lauded.

The Herald again leads the way, praising this “Bold reinvention of historic Henry”, in performances over three nights at the School’s Levi Fox Hall, the RSC’s Swan Theatre and the historic Guildhall – Shakespeare’s schoolroom.

Professional actor and Old Boy Tim Pigott-Smith, who performed the role of Chorus, was described an “an inspired choice… [he] superbly evoked the ‘imaginary puissance’ of the English expedition, but the embedded pedantry of a schoolmaster cast an implicitly ironic light on the enterprise’s apparent glories.”

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s Blogging Shakespeare was equally quick to heap praise on the the student actors: “Jeremy Franklin’s King Henry V was compelling not only in the way he spoke and understood the lines, but in how he managed to charm and persuade the company around him. He was very much at the centre of this world, but it was a world which was held together by the sum of all its parts.”

In The Bardathon, Peter Kirwan added: “In a cast of almost fifty students it is hard to pick out individuals. The production’s strongest moments were its group scenes, including a spectacular movement sequence as Henry began trudging determinedly at the end of the first half.”

The Shakespeare Blog admired the subtle references to the historical context of this production woven seamlessly into Perry Mills’ staging: “At the end of the play, in a ceremony reminiscent of Shakespeare’s birthday celebrations in Stratford, the boys line up to place posies of spring flowers on the coffin of Henry V… The production skillfully connects today’s schoolboys, some of whom appear in their school uniforms, with modern soldiers and with the historical characters of the play. The youth of some of the boys on stage is a reminder of the harshness of the war in which the boys of 1913 went on to fight, some to die.”

Over the space of three memorable evenings, one of the most poignant episodes in the School’s history has been celebrated, and a new chapter written in the story of King Edward VI, and its remarkable Edward’s Boys ensemble.