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on 12 August 2013
About half way through Henry V Corporal Bardolph gets himself executed for stealing from a church and the news is reported, triumphantly to Henry as the only English casualty of a recent skirmish. But the king knows Bardolph from his days hanging out with old Jack Falstaff back in Henry IV part 1, hears the name and his face freezes and he chokes his first attempt to respond - and at that moment, in that brief sob, you see a man who has no choice but to allow an old friend to die and, if you're watching this as part three of the trilogy, maybe remembers a line in that now apparently distant play where he warned Bardolph that if he doesn't stop stealing, one day he'll end up hanged. Then, having dispatched his old comrade, there's real passionate anger in Henry's assertion that he'd ordered everyone not to rob the French (which is historically untrue, but not the point) - Shakespeare's line is not "oh, God, stupid, stupid b*****d, I bloody told him" but it might as well be.

It's moments like that raise Dominic Dromgoole and Jamie Parker's take on Henry V above any other I've encountered. This scene is often underplayed and just used to show how far the king has come from Prince Hal, here it's a pivotal moment, a betrayal - justified but a betrayal nonetheless - that suggests that "how far" perhaps equals "too far" and that this Henry has become the same detached, self-serving noble politician as the ones who dulled and spoiled his father's reign.

Productions of Henry V tend to follow either Olivier's cardboard patriotic hero or Branagh's cynical glory hunter, Dromgoole, however, never loses sight of the fact that this is not a pro-War or anti-War play; it's a play about how war makes people behave and how they react to imminent death, glory or both. So, Shakespeare's portraits are allowed to speak for themselves - from the vain, over-confident French boasting of glories not yet achieved, through the comic yet wiser Captains Gower, Jamy and Llewellen (the latter performed with glorious bravura by the criminally under-rated Brendan O'Hea), the swaggering but cowardly Ancient Pistol (who between his portrayal by Sam Crane in Henry IV and by Sam Cox here appears to have aged about 20 years, but is still the same character) and the tragic figure of the Boy - Falstaff's old page (who hasn't aged 20 years) - whose experience of the campaign teaches him to abandon roguery for loyalty and honour only to find them in his death at Agincourt guarding the baggage train.

And, disguised among those ordinary soldiers, on the eve of battle, sharing their hopes and disputes, their jokes and their fears, Parker's Henry completes the Education of a King that is Shakespeare's big theme through all three plays and learns the answer to the question that's been probing away through all of them, "Who speaks for England?". Not the sycophantic, politicking nobles, not the self-serving legalists of the church and not the drunks and rogues of the taverns, but these hard grafting, straight talking professionals who give their lives for it. The strength of this production is seen most clearly in the huge contrast that it creates between, at Harfleur the bombastic, glory seeker crying "God for Harry, England and St George" and, at Agincourt, the reflective team captain, understatedly celebrating the "Happy Few", the "Band of Brothers" fighting together for a cause.

It's no surprise then, when as the battle passes and Henry woos Katherine of France - a brilliantly played comedy, featuring an almost dementedly protective Nurse Alice - he asks if she can accept marriage not to a King but to a Soldier. He's found himself and he's found England and, ok, he's found it in exactly the place you might expect Shakespeare, a child of that same rising professional class, to locate it, but that's why it works so well. This isn't "Henry V for Victory" or "Henry V Against the War", this is Henry V by William Shakespeare and neither Dominic Dromgoole nor Jamie Parker nor anyone else in this, by turns, hilarious, moving and ultimately triumphant production ever forgets.
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on 20 June 2013
I should clarify: I saw this at my local cinema (check out Globe on Screen productions), which is why I can review this before it's actually released.

I have long believed that Shakespeare suffers if his plays are taken out of context - ie the theatre for which they were written. Filmed versions often lack something - not least the intimacy of a live audience. The one exception to this rule is Henry V, where the possibilities of film add greatly to the spectacle. Shakespeare himself presumably understood this, hence the Chorus (Kingdom for a stage ... princes to act ... divide each man into a thousand parts ... etc). Which is why the best DVD of Henry V remains either the Olivier or the Branagh version, according to taste.

But this is worth viewing, too. It stars Jamie Parker (continuing his Price Hal from Henry IV) as the King, and he carries the play nicely, generating the necessary charisma - except during the Crispin's Day speech. This is delivered in a downbeat, almost apologetic way; and though it was interesting to see a different take, it didn't quite work for me. The rest of the time, Parker is riveting; he is touching in the night-before-battle scene, and wonderfully comic in the last act.

Globe productions always manage to extract every ounce of comedy from Shakespeare. I realise that this is not to everyone's taste; but I reckon they manage to do it without smothering the drama. At times they come close, though. Fluellen here is played totally for laughs, which I hadn't expected. It works - the expression on his face during the (usually boring) Englishman-Irishman-Scotsman-Welshman scene was comedy gold. As was the leek scene.

Exeter lacks presence (oh for Brian Blessed); the Archbishop of Canterbury has his dignity stripped from him from the start; the French King is subtly melancholic; the Dauphin nicely stroppy; and the musicians (often an under-appreciated part of the enemble) excellent.

Ignore the BBC's Hollow Crown series; watch Olivier's version, and Branagh's, - and this one.
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on 6 July 2013
I've just finished watching this DVD and I found it absolutely spellbinding. The performances were so good from the entire cast, but Jamie Parker was just brilliant. I've seen many productions of Henry V on screen and on stage, including Mark Rylance at the Globe, but this production is the one that has really increased my understanding of the play.
When Harry in disguise has an argument with a soldier before the battle of Agincourt, you really understand what he is going through: what it is like to be an isolated 15thC king the night before a battle.
But, surprisingly, there is so much actual comedy in this production (with genuine belly laughs coming from the audience regularly throughout the play) something that really adds to the enjoyment of the play without taking anything from it.
The sound quality was good, as was the picture quality and camera work.
If you can, get both parts of the Globe's Henry IV to go with this. They also have Jamie Parker in as Hal and if you watch all three parts together they work as one captivating 15 act play.
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on 22 August 2013
I toured the Globe on my last trip to UK in 2011. It is great to now get DVDs of the plays in Melbourne. Seeing Henry iv parts 1&2 & Henry v is marvellous. I came to Australia aged 23 and this was my introduction to Henry iv. I saw Olivier's Henry v as a child, so don't remember much. When the Boarshead scene started I had a lightbulb moment. The English history of theatre and comedy seemed to crystallise in my mind. This is where it all came from. I so enjoyed all three plays, thought Roger Allam was brilliant. The way he speaks the language is marvellous, and the relationship with Jamie Parker , they could do comedy duo. Henry v was just how I wanted it to be. There is nothing glorious about war. I lived In Ilford & Wanstead till I was 23' so I saw ww2 fairly close up.
These 3 DVDs are fantastic and I have nearly worn them out. Thank you Opus Arte

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Having previously played the young Prince Hal in Henry IV parts one and two, Jamie Parker returned to the role as the strong centre of a traditional, yet rousing, production of Henry V, staged at the Globe Theatre in 2012.

As might be expected, costumes, staging and music are all designed to be as authentic as possible to how the play might have been presented in Shakespeare's day. So if you are looking for a radical reinterpretation then this might not be the production for you. But the sheer quality of the play and the cast ensure that this is an absorbing watch from beginning to end.

Jamie Parker is commanding as Henry, no longer the young Hal of the earlier plays, now he has the responsibility of leadership on his shoulders. Henry V is full of quotable soliloquies which Parker performs very well. It's the mark of a good performance when someone can take material which is familiar, and make it their own, as Parker does.

The ensemble cast are very strong, particularly Brendan O'Hea as the leek-loving Welshman Fluellen. I was fortunate enough to see this production in Cardiff when it toured prior to playing at the Globe, and as might be expected O'Hea's comic performance was very much appreciated by the audience.

Sam Cox, Paul Rider and David Hargreaves respectively playing Pistol, Bardolph and Nym also provide some fine comic moments and Olivia Ross, making her theatrical debut, has two very different, but effective, roles as Katherine and the boy.

Dominic Dromgoole's production of Henry V manages the difficult task of juggling the humour and horror of war and Jamie Parker delivers a performance that can sit alongside the likes of Oliver and Branagh. Highly recommended.
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on 10 March 2014
As filming plays requires good editing to make the most out of the live performances this is an excellent example how it should be done. With a brilliant cast, many were in Henry IV, part 1 and 2, Jamie Parker reprised his part as Henry V and brought an incredible energy and nuanced performance to the lead role.
Maybe one day he can do the greatest part the British Film industry has to offer if he doesn't mess it up.
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on 28 July 2013
I was fortunate enough to have been present at the performance at the Globe which was filmed for this DVD, and it's a wonderful memento of a truly memorable performance. Unlike modern theatres, where the audience just sits and watches, in the Globe the audience is a fundamental part of the performance, and the actors interact with them in a way that just doesn't happen elsewhere. This is especially true in "Henry V" where the "groundlings" are the crowd to whom Henry addresses his "St Crispin's Day" speech, and the drummers in the battle scenes stand in the middle of the audience.

If you can't go to the Globe in person (and I'd urge every lover of Shakespeare to try and do so), this DVD is the next best thing. Totally unlike any other performance you'll see. Riveting.
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on 31 July 2013
Having seen this at the Globe as well as on tour I was looking forward to this and was not disappointed. I have seen quite a few Henry V productions over the years this one is up there with the best. I cannot think of any young actor around today who can do it better than Jamie Parker. Dominic Dromgoole's production is a standout - fast, witty and enthralling.
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on 31 August 2013
A distinctive reading and a fine complement to the classic and recent interpretations. This excellent disc is therefore highly recommended.
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on 22 June 2016
I have been a Shakespeare fanatic for over fifty years. Jamie is the most superb Henry V i I've ever seen. Oiivier, Branpughand others do a fine job. Parker makes Henry human, yet still complex. No matter how many versions one has you must own this one. The director has drawn the best from a high,y skilled cast. The character of Pistol is a lovable scoundrel.
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