Tonight was the event for Henry V, the latest Carolingian stage production, respectively autocratted by calygrey and directed by herooftheage. The event was mainly built around the play: it started at 5pm, with a simple but tasty feast prepared by rufinia (all good stuff, but the stars were the smeared rabbit and the dessert trifle), followed by the show.
The production was entirely delightful. It was a complete rendition, with all sorts of material that I'd never seen before, since I've only seen highly-abridged versions. Unsurprisingly, the usually-trimmed humor particularly stuck in my mind; some highlights include:
- Fluellen, played by alexx_kay, bid fair to steal the show. I hadn't previously realized how Gratiano-like he can be, especially when the character is given free rein. There are a number of scenes that I usually think of as dour, or at least serious, that turn quite funny when Fluellen gets involved.
- Similarly, Pistol has a lot more stage time in the full play than in the usual versions. In Christian's hands, he developed practically a nervous tic of flipping the bird at people at the slightest provocation; as good humor does, this got funnier with repetition. And the scene between Pistol and pamelina's French soldier (which I hadn't even realized was in there) was deliciously funny, trying to negotiate a ransom despite not being able to talk to each other.
- Less funny, but a nice dramatic touch, was the use of the tennis balls. Usually they are simply referred to, an insult hidden in a box. Instead, learnedax pulled them out and used them to fine effect to startle both the characters and audience, punctuating his response to the French ambassador with ominous whacks of the balls off the stage.
- Since they left everything in, they had to figure out what to do with the interminable monologues that pepper the show. In general, this came down to what was happening upstage of the speaker. It was most evident during Canterbury's near-endless blather about Henry's right to the throne, early in the play: as everyone loses patience, the upstage action gradually gets funnier and funnier.
- Much subtler was the upstaging in V.2 -- always one of the highlights of the play, but particularly well-done here. As Burgundy begins to blather, the scene seems to get slow -- until you notice the byplay in the back between Henry and Catherine, trying to steal glances at each other without anyone (especially each other) noticing. And the scene between the two of them and the nurse (played by Rhonwen, who also played a deliciously swaggering and arrogant Dauphin), trying to get past the communication barrier, was laugh-out-loud funny. ladysprite's rendition of Catherine was delightful. (If I hadn't known that she doesn't know French, I would have assumed she was fluent in it -- it came across as smooth and natural throughout.)