Shakespeare’s ever popular play is a thrilling study of nationalism, war and the psychology of power. Kit Harington leads the cast in an exciting modern production directed by Donmar Associate Director Max Webster, exploring what it means to be English and our relationship to Europe, asking: do we ever get the leaders we deserve?
Joining the previously announced Kit Harington (Henry V) are Jude Akuwudike (King of France/Archbishop of Canterbury/Sir Thomas Erpingham), Seumas Begg (Jamy/Grey/Gloucester), Claire-Louise Cordwell (Bardolph/Bates), Kate Duchêne (Exeter/Constable of France), Olivier Huband (The Dauphin/Ely), Melissa Johns (Mistress Quickly/Williams/Macmorris), David Judge (Nym/Mountjoy), Danny Kirrane (Pistol/Westmoreland), Anoushka Lucas (Katherine/Gower), Adam Maxey (Orléans/Bedford), Steven Meo (Llewellyn/Falstaff), Marienella Phillips (Alice/Cambridge/Salisbury), Joanna Songi (Scroop/Rambures/Harfleur/Governor/York/Burgundy) and Millicent Wong (Chorus/Boy) with Gethin Alderman, Diany Bandza and Thomas Dennis. The production opens on 22 February, with previews from 12 February, and runs until 9 April.
Read our interview with Anoushka Lucas (Katherine/Gower)
Q: What attracted you to be a part of this production of Henry V?
AL: Well firstly, I’ve never done any Shakespeare, and as an actor I’m always looking for things to challenge me – Henry V seemed like a nice big chunky challenge to start the year off with. On top of that, this is a play about imperialism and nationalism and war, a lot of traditionally “masculine” themes, and I found myself really interested in that because it’s so far from the thing I usually engage with.
Q: Can you tell us about the characters you play?
AL: I play Katherine of France, who is expected to marry Henry if he wins the war – and I also play a British captain called Gower.
Both characters are powerful women, but in very different ways: Gower is a highly competent army officer who we meet in the midst of battle, whereas Katherine moves entirely in political and domestic spaces. They’re both very cool women and I like them a lot!
Q: How does this production compare with the more traditional ones of Henry V?
AL: I think we are really digging into the darkness of this show in a way that I find really exciting. What does it actually mean to invade another country? What motivates that? What is the reality of war and the cost for the real soldiers involved in that? Is patriotism a good thing or a bad thing? And other great questions about power and gender and Europe.
Q: What can you tell us about the rehearsal process?
AL: It’s been very physical! Max Webster wanted us to understand what it actually feels like to be a soldier, so we’ve had military drill every morning of rehearsals, led by a lovely ex-marine called Tom, and we’ve also been doing a lot of movement work with Benoit Swan Pouffer, who is incredible, as well as obviously a lot of scene work with Max and Dadiow.
It’s been an incredibly bonding way of rehearsing as we all move together every day. It’s also been quite sweaty.
Q: You are a ‘singer, songwriter, composer, actor and theatre maker’. How does all of this gel together?
AL: This question made me laugh out loud. The honest answer is I don’t know, I try to work it out as I go along. I’m incredibly grateful that people ask me to do any of these things, I didn’t really have much of a plan beyond being a singer/songwriter so I’m just delighted to find myself engaged in so many creative pursuits that teach me things.
Q: How have you coped during the pandemic?
AL: I played a lot of piano, I think I may have written an album, I just need to find the time to record it. I was incredibly lucky in that I was able to work on enough projects to sustain me financially and emotionally, which still feels sort of insane. I wrote a huge amount, which I think is how I stayed sane in the darkest parts – but I also really understood who it is that I love and who loves me, and I feel the main way I coped was by solidifying the relationships I have around me. Which is a wordy way of saying my friends and my family got me through.
Q: Looking ahead – what would you like to be doing during the rest of 2022 and beyond?
AL: I’ve got a few things in the pipeline that are half cooked, so there are some workshops and R&Ds of shows I’m writing on that I really hope we can pull off, and ultimately, I’d love to share those pieces with the world. If I had a million pounds, I would get into the studio tomorrow with my band and put down my next album, but there’s a bit more planning that needs to go into that. Other than that, I’d love to lie on a hot, hot beach.
Directed by Max Webster; Designer Fly Davis; Lighting Designer Lee Curran; Sound Designer Carolyn Downing; Casting Director Anna Cooper CDG; Video Designer Andrzej Goulding; Movement Director Benoit Swan Pouffer; Music Andrew T Mackay; Costume Supervisor Lisa Aitken; Fight Director Kate Waters; Dialect Coach Fabien Enjalric; Military Consultant Tom Leigh; Resident Assistant Director Dadiow Lin.
HENRY V LISTINGS
Donmar Warehouse, 41 Earlham Street, Seven Dials, London WC2H 9LX
12 February – 9 April 2022
Henry V has limited availability remaining. From 7 February, a small number of additional tickets will be released online every day at 10am via https://www.donmarwarehouse.com/