First Encounters The Famous Victories of Henry V: The Game's Afoot

A young man with curly hair in a black vest
Martin Bassindale in rehearsals for The Famous Victories of Henry V
Richard Lakos © RSC – Image Licensing

First Encounters with Shakespeare: The Famous Victories of Henry V is a touring production tailored to young people from 8 years upwards. It brings together all the exciting moments from the three plays Henry IV Parts I & II and Henry V.

I've just slept for 12 hours straight.

Either I'm regressing into a layabout teenager, which is highly possible knowing me, or I've just finished the first week of rehearsals and I'm shattered.

The play is The Famous Victories of Henry V and it's part of the RSC's 'First Encounters with Shakespeare' shows. For many of our audience it will be their 'first encounter' with Shakespeare, whether they're a school kid, a granny or anyone in between.

At this stage, I find it helpful to think of our job in Harry Potter terms.

We're essentially bringing magic to 'muggles'. Just because you weren't born into Shakespeare or your parents weren't Shakespearean professors doesn't mean you can't connect with the stories as powerfully as David Tennant. Or Judi Dench for that matter.

We're bringing 'expelliarmus' to everyone.

And for me this is really important. I was lucky. I got the opportunity to see Shakespeare's plays performed while I was studying them at school. But without this chance I fear I would have found it all too confusing and dull. The magic comes in the performance, not stuck around tables with your heads in books.

But here's the hard part.

What we've done is taken three full-length Shakespeare plays (Henry IV Part I, Henry IV Part II and Henry V) and slammed them together. And then tried to tell the same story in just over an hour.

I say 'what we've done', the reality is this was done by Owen, our fantastic director; I just showed up, played with swords, danced to some music and tried to get the credit.

That aside, it's been a tiring week. We've all put in a huge amount of work.

We've had band rehearsals, fight choreographies, costume-box discoveries, video trailer filming and meet and greets.

It's also been an incredibly inspiring week. What we have on our hands is a high octane, no-fluff, formula-one version of Shakespeare. The story does not stop for anything. 

And after my 12 hours rest the week's main discovery is still crystal clear: thank God we're not using real swords and shields because I have absolutely no upper body strength.

Time for more sleep.

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