InReview InReview

Support independent journalism

Adelaide Fringe

Review: Henry V (Man and Monarch)

Adelaide Fringe

Australian actor Brett Brown is captivating as Shakespeare’s hero monarch in this excellent one-man play at Holden Street Theatres. ★★★★

Comments Print article

Brown is on stage as the audience enters the intimate and slightly mysterious space that is The Arch theatre.

He is lost in his own world, creating paper figures and almost immediately destroying them, and it is this mood of confusion, renewal and agitation that pervades the first part of this depiction of the life of Henry – one of England’s best-known heroic monarchs, yet possessed by all the human infirmities of guilt, ambition and uncertainty.

You don’t need an intimate knowledge of Shakespeare’s history plays to be spellbound by Brown’s outstanding solo performance, but it certainly helps to know the background of Henry’s transformation from carefree Prince Hal to trusted and responsible monarch, to triumphant King Henry of Agincourt, wooing and winning France’s Catherine to unite the two countries in the hope of everlasting peace.

The glorious speeches before Harfleur and Agincourt lead us firstly to the union with Catherine and then to the sombre calculation of lives lost in battle.

Henry’s symbolic washing of his hands prepares us for the culmination where we can return to the play’s initial nightmare of England’s future after his death, as well as the relevance of the theme to our own time.  The consideration of leadership and how our leaders’ choices affect us seems to be especially significant today.

Fringe - Henry_V_Ostrava__7_

This is a tour de force for any actor, but Brown carries the play with supreme confidence, moving from anxiety and remorse to determination and inspiration, to the lightness of love and the weight of responsibility for his country’s future.

This was a small audience, and he engaged with each member – the simplicity of the set and subtlety of lighting being used to great effect. Changes of costume and positioning also help the audience follow the chronology of events.

It is little wonder that this production has brought international praise and awards for Brown and the director Philip Parr.  The audience was full of enthusiasm for this performance and were captivated throughout.

Four stars

Henry V  (Man and Monarch) is playing at The Arch, Holden Street Theatres, until March 5.

Make a comment View comment guidelines

Support local arts journalism

Your support will help us continue the important work of InReview in publishing free professional journalism that celebrates, interrogates and amplifies arts and culture in South Australia.

Donate Here


Show comments Hide comments
Will my comment be published? Read the guidelines.

. You are free to republish the text and graphics contained in this article online and in print, on the condition that you follow our republishing guidelines.

You must attribute the author and note prominently that the article was originally published by InReview.  You must also inlude a link to InReview. Please note that images are not generally included in this creative commons licence as in most cases we are not the copyright owner. However, if the image has an InReview photographer credit or is marked as “supplied”, you are free to republish it with the appropriate credits.

We recommend you set the canonical link of this content to to insure that your SEO is not penalised.

Copied to Clipboard

More Adelaide Fringe stories

Loading next article