H5 (Harry of Albion)
- Eddie Harrison
- 21 August 2019
A revamping of the Shakespeare History plays to modern publand
The history plays are hard work; even the recent all-star BBC 2 adaptations were hard to love. An upgrade, or at least an update is required, and Anna Townley's play manages to find a fresh spin; Albion, in her version, is a pub, and young Henry Monmouth inherits it from his dead father. Does he have what it takes to keep it in the family?
Presented at the free fringe, and making use of a private room at The Outhouse, H5 is blessed with a venue which matches the content of the play; just as well, because there's not much going on here in terms of stagecraft, lighting changes, props or scenery. But there is plenty to engage about Townley's script; Henry is trying to put the death of his father and his struggles with the demon drink behind him, but he soon finds himself in conflict with Danielle Franks of Valley Propertie, who stakes her own claim to the property.
A royal rumble is the result, and there's plenty of fun to be found in the way that Townley revisits Shakespeare's text and finds modern analogies for some of his more arcane concepts. Her twitter account shows her interest in the popular musical Hamilton, and there's a similar wilful irreverence here that the players seem to revel in.
There's a shambolic rawness that works against the performance; the idea is good enough to sustain a more disciplined show, and the tiny venue and lack of production value means that much of the cleverness is lost in the noise. All concerned should pick themselves up on the back of this short run at the free fringe, dust themselves off, and plot a return with a more polished version; the play's the thing by which the spirit of this king might be captured.
The Outhouse, run ended.