A continuation of their Wars of the Roses history cycle, Peter Hall and John Barton’s 1964 production featured Ian Holm as a conversational Henry V.

A king sits pensively wearing  a crown, medieval chain mail and leather doublet
Ian Holm as Henry V, 1965, Aldwych Theatre
Photo by Reg Wilson © RSC Browse and license our images


John Barton and Peter Hall’s production of Henry V opened at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in June 1964 and was regarded by some reviewers as anti-war, chiming as it did with with contemporary protests against the Vietnam War. The programme included a quotation from the Renaissance scholar Erasmus: “war is sown from war”.

1965 revival

When the production was revived in 1965 at the Aldwych Theatre in London, Trevor Nunn joined John Barton as a co-director.

Cast changes included Michael Bryant replacing Charles Kay as the Dauphin, Nicholas Selby as the King of France instead of William Squire and Michele Dotrice as Katherine instead of Katherine Barker.

From Henry to Richard

In the Wars of the Roses history cycle, which ran from Richard II to Richard III, Ian Holm played Prince Hal in Henry IV Parts 1 and 2 as well as the title roles in both Henry V and Richard III. 

Humanising Henry

Ian Holm was commended for making Henry V appear as a normal man - torn between private doubts and public responsibility but still capable of taking decisive action when required. Many of his speeches were delivered conversationally as if he was indeed talking to “a band of brothers”. He successfully made the transition from warrior king to no-nonsense suitor.


Peter Hall and John Barton's 1964 production of Henry V coincided with the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth.

The Royal Mail issued a set of five special stamps, one of which showed Henry V dressed in armour praying in his tent on the eve of the Battle of Agincourt.

The other stamps in the set featured Hamlet, Puck and Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Romeo and Juliet in the balcony scene and Feste in Twelfth Night.

Royal Mail Shakespeare Festival 1/6 stamp, 1964, showing Henry V kneeling in his tent
Reproduced with kind permission of Royal Mail Group Limited © Royal Mail Limited 1964 Browse and license our images


Designer John Bury enjoyed a productive partnership with director Peter Hall and was head of design at the RSC and subsequently at the National Theatre. Making the most of a bare stage, Bury exploited key props and authentic materials to create some striking images, complemented by Ann Curtis' subtle costumes. His guiding principle was that props and furniture were purely functional to tell the story. 

You can see examples of their work on the production in the galleries below.

Black and white engraving of Henry V wearing royal regalia and holding sword and sceptre
Engraving by Reginold Elstrack © RSC Browse and license our images

The image of the king

This 17th century engraving of Henry V was reproduced in the 1965 programme for the Aldwych Theatre in London. It is by Reginold Elstrack, an engraver who published a book of engravings of the kings of England, entitled Basilioilogia; a Booke of Kings, published in 1618. 

It projects the public image of the king, so there is no sign of the disfiguring facial wound which Henry sustained at the Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403, fighting Hotspur and the rebels.

Shakespeare, writing the play c.1596-7, alludes to Henry’s true appearance when the king woos Katherine:

My comfort is that old age, that ill layer-up of beauty, can do no more spoil upon my face”  Henry V, Act 5 Scene 2.

Blue and black programme for Henry V at the Aldwych Theatre in 1965




Katharine Barker – Katherine

Colin Bell – Duke of Gloucester (1965)

Anthony Boden – Duke of Gloucester

Philip Brack – Constable of France

Michael Bryant – Dauphin (1965)

Donald Burton – Duke of Exeter

Edward Clayton – English Herald (1965)

Patience Collier – Hostess, Alice

John Corvin – Governor of Harfleur

Jeffery Dench – Jamy

Michele Dotrice – Katherine (1965)

Michael Farnsworth – Duke of Bedford (1965)

James Garrett - Duke of Clarence

Peter Geddis – Corporal Nym

Gabrielle Hamilton – Isabel (1965)

Stephen Hancock – Monsieur Le Fer

Paul Hardwick – Ancient Pistol

Timothy Hardy – French Messenger (1965)

Davyd Harries – Governor of Harfleur (1965)

Ian Holm – Henry V

Ian Hogg – Jamy (1965)

John Hussey - Duke of Orleans

Keith James - Duke of Bedford

Michael Jayston – Duke of Exeter (1965)

Maurice Jones - Sir Thomas Erpingham

Charles Kay - Canterbury, Dauphin

Donald Layne-Smith - Bishop of Ely

Stanley Lebor - French Messenger

Leon Lissek – Duke of Bourbon (1965)

David Lyn - Earl of Cambridge

John Malcolm – Lieutenant Bardolph (1965), Sir Thomas Erpingham (1965)

Robert Marsden – Chorus (1965)

Fergus McClelland – Boy (1965)

Rhys McConnochie - English Herald

Gareth Morgan – Bates

John Nettleton – Canterbury (1965), Fluellen (1965)

John Normington – Lieutenant Bardolph (1964), Gower (1965)

Eric Porter – Chorus

Terence Rigby – Bates (1965)

Clifford Rose – Montjoy (1965)

Michael Rose – Duke of Bourbon

Nicholas Selby – King of France (1965)

Morgan Sheppard – Bishop of Ely (1965)

William Squire – King of France

John Steiner – Earl of Cambridge (1965)

Hugh Sullivan - Duke of Burgundy, Macmorris

Clive Swift – Fluellen

Charles Thomas – Montjoy,

Madoline Thomas – Isabel,

David Waller – Williams

Malcolm Webster – Gower

Tim Wylton – Boy

Ken Wynne – Corporal Nym (1965), Monsieur Le Fer (1965)





Director – Peter Hall, John Barton, Trevor Nunn (1965)

Designer - John Bury

Costume designer – Ann Curtis

Lighting designer – John Bradley

Music - Guy Woolfenden


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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