Shakespeare in the Park brings ‘Henry V’ outdoors

This year Shakespeare in the Park adapted Henry V for a short outdoor performance directed by Sharon Sèlove. A narrator (David Stuart Bull), sporting awesome warrior braids, aids the transition between settings and synopsizes missing scenes.

King Henry of England (Josh Simpson) has a claim on the French throne through a distant relative. He takes his lords and army to France and conquers several towns. The arrogance of the French dauphin (Nicholas McLaughlin) is quickly replaced with defeat, and England wins the day. To secure his victory, King Henry successfully and hilariously woos the French Princess (Radhika Stein).

Utilizing the park’s topography expanded the play’s blocking in entertaining ways. Heralds dashed hither and thither delivering messages to monarchs. Later, the French darted through the audience before dying among us.

The wireless mics worked — most of the time — even at long distances, which was an impressive feat of sound coordination.

I found it confusing when individual actors repeatedly switched between French and English roles, but that’s a hazard of having a “happy few” of actors.

Simpson delivered the famous St. Crispin’s Day (“Band of brothers”) speech with volume and exuberance, but I prefer Kenneth Branagh’s dynamic articulation and sustained crescendo in the film version.

My favorite scene was when the disguised King Henry wandered around the camp speaking with his soldiers on the eve of battle. The soldiers were candid on their feelings towards the king, and his reactions were suitably miffed. 

The drunkards were funny, the swordfights swashbuckling and the French well-spoken. Actually, Stein’s French accent was exquisite.

Henry V plays Saturdays and Sundays at 6 pm through Aug. 27 in Amazon Park. Bring your own chair; FREE.