Henry V, produced by Persephone Theatre, is not just the best work I have seen this company mount, but it is also the best of the bard I have seen in Montreal in decades. The thrust stage was beautifully configured and the clever blocking was lively and interesting. The vast number of young men on stage performed with articulate discipline and exhilarating panache.
Aaron Turner was riveting as Henry V and his performance was flawless right up to the very comical bilingual courtship of Princess Katherine in the final scene. He managed to give a really youthful Henry the gravitas that was needed to deliver the famous speeches of encouragement to his men.
Dustin Ruck was particularly fine as Fluellen. I was greatly impressed when his Welsh speech was juxtaposed with Travis Martin’s Irish brogue and both were clear and distinguishable. Julianna Kun was convincing as Alice and delightful as the hostess. Karine Lefebvre was charming and funny as Katherine.
The cast was energetic and focused and gave this play a polished performance. It may not have been necessary to use the sound track of modern warfare to convince us of the horrors of battle. The modern stylized weapons were jarring rather than interesting, and one did wish that the costumes would choose a century and stick to it. The lighting was really well designed by Peter Vatsis and the set worked very well.
The pace of the play was wonderful throughout and the transitions, which are really complicated, were managed with grace and terrific skill. The stylized fight scenes might have been handled by a fight master in a slightly more convincing manner.
One can only hope that this company, which is a haven for fledgling actors, will soon find a play with enough female roles to achieve some balance. Statistically there are more than twice as many female students than male students graduating in theatre in Montreal every year, and a shot at something by Persephone would really be a great boost.
This company has managed to produce a difficult play in a delightful way in a truly fabulous venue. If you love the histories, as I do, this one you must see. It is a joy to see this play done with such clarity and energy and it is worth heading out in the numbing month of November to enjoy it.
Henry V by William Shakespeare, November 4-13, 2010 at the Monument-National. Adults $25; Students $15. Monument National box-office: 514 871-2224. Monument National, Studio Hydro-Quebec, 1182, St-Laurent (corner Réné-Levèsque).