Adrian Noble’s post-Falkland War production featured a youthful Kenneth Branagh as Henry V.

Theatrical poster featuring a night scene with a young man in long cloak in front of a brazier in a muddy field
Poster for Henry V, 1984, Royal Shakespeare Theatre
Directed by Adrian Noble © RSC Browse and license our images

"Rainy marching in the painful field" Henry V, Act 4 Scene 3

Adrian Noble’s production opened at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, in March 1984 before transferring to the Theatre Royal, Newcastle upon Tyne and the Barbican Theatre, London, the following year. 

Director Noble was keen to stress the brutality of war and its effect on the individual. The production reminded us that war “is a game to the French, a tactic to the English and a tragedy to individual humanity”, Michael Billington, Guardian, 18 May 1985.


The programme for the production included articles by historians advocating different interpretations of Henry V: was he an heroic monarch or a brutal faith-driven avenger?


Kenneth Branagh was the youngest actor to play the role with the company at 23, beating Paul Scofield (24) in 1946 and Richard Burton (26) in 1951. He was even younger than the real Henry V who was 28 at the Battle of Agincourt (1415).

Branagh revisited the role when he directed and starred in a film version of Henry V for Renaissance Films in 1989.


Award winning designer Bob Crowley has worked on many productions for the company including Les Liaisons Dangereuses in 1986. He usually starts the design process by sketching on a white card a basic three-dimensional design, which is eventually translated into a model box (a miniature version of the stage and set). The design process is very detailed as the creative team make thousands of decisions about colour, texture, light and the position of items on stage. Crowley has always emphasised the importance of space on stage and tries to avoid too much clutter which might detract from the words spoken.

Designer's storyboard black and white sketch of set for Henry V 1984 showing single figure and walls of Harfleur in background

Designer's model box of the set for Act 2 Scene 2 of Henry V 1984

In the examples above we see Crowley's storyboard sketch and the accompanying model box set for Act 2 Scene 2, where Henry V exposes the traitors in Southampton before leaving for France. The action takes place in front of a simple white curtain stretched across the lower part of downstage.

You can see more of Crowley's designs for Adrian Noble's Henry V in the following storyboard, sets and costume galleries:

Now Herald are the dead numbered? Henry V, Act 4 Scene 8

After his victory at the Battle of Agincourt, the French Herald hands Henry V a list of the French dead and high ranking prisoners, then a list of the English fatalities. 

Casualty figures

According to Shakespeare, 10,000 French were killed, including 126 nobles, compared with just 25 English dead. Historian Anne Curry has estimated the losses more like 2,000 for the French and 100 for the English. The French forces comprised about 12,000 men outnumbering Henry V’s army which totalled about 8,500.

Learn more about the history of the battle:

How Henry V won the Battle of Agincourt , BBC iWonder

Agincourt or Azincourt? Victory, Defeat, and the War of 1415 by Helen Castor, Gresham College


Young man in armour reads a letter while another man waits in the background
Montjoy (Christopher Ravenscroft) watches as Henry (Kenneth Branagh) reads the list of dead in Henry V, 1984.
Photo by Joe Cocks Studio Collection © Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Browse and license our images


Here we see the three prop letters read by Henry V (Kenneth Branagh) in the Adrian Noble's 1984 production.

Each letter is an accurate version of the names listed for the French dead, the French prisoners and English dead, as they appear in Shakespeare’s Henry V.

Our props team have used calligraphy and yellowed paper to imitate medieval handwriting and parchment.

Discover more about prop making in How We Make Theatre .

Theatre programme cover for Henry V 1984 featuring Kenneth Branagh sitting on throne in muddy field



Royal Shakespeare Theatre

Adam Bareham – Gower

Brian Blessed - Duke of Exeter

Kenneth Branagh – Henry V

Martin Challis – Irvine, Simon, Boy

Yvonne Coulette - Alice

Derek Crewe - Nym

Richard Easton - Constable of France

Dexter Fletcher - Boy

Paul Gregory - Westmoreland

Norman Henry - Governor of Harfleur, Thomas Erpingham

Bernard Horsfall - Pistol

Harold Innocent - Canterbury

Andrew Jarvis – Court, Earl of Cambridge

Arthur Kohn – Grey, MacMorris

Ian Mackenzie – Duke of Orleans

Ian McDiarmid - Chorus

Paul McGreevy - Boy

Peter Miles - Grandpre, Boy

Cecile Paoli - Katherine

David Phelan – Prince John

Criag Priestley - Boy

Sion Probert - Fluellen

Christopher Ravenscroft - Montjoy

Andy Readman - Soldier

John Rogan - Bardolph

Patricia Routledge - Mistress Quickly

Jonathan Scott-Taylor - Humphrey, Gloucester

Sebastian Shaw - Bishop of Ely, Charles VI

Stephen Simms – Lord Scroop

Malcolm Storry - Williams

David Taylor - Boy

Peter Theedom – Bates, Jamy

Wayne Weatherhead - Boy

Nicholas Woodeson - Dauphin

Sarah Woodward - Soldier




Director – Adrian Noble

Designer - Bob Crowley

Lighting designer – Robert Bryan

Music - Howard Blake


The RSC's archive is held at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. You can visit the Library and Archives there to look at production related information, including photos, videos of shows and stage management documents:

Shakespeare Centre Library and Archive homepage

You can search the RSC catalogue here: 

RSC performance database

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