Sunday, February 25, 2024




Henry V

Written by William Shakespeare. Directed and produced by TW Gibbings. Co-director and Stage Manager Sophia Carlton. Choreographer Annette Sharp. Cheerleading sequence Kate Loynd Costumes by TW Gibbings and Cerri Murphy. Lakespeare production team: TW Gibbings, Paul Leverenz, Denise Carlton, Sophia Carlton, Cerri Murphy, Cathy Day and Jonty Redman.

 Cast: Jake Fryer-Hornsby, Anneka van der Velde, Max Gambale, Annabelle Hansen, Alexandra Pelvin, Marni Mount, Tyler Berrigan, John Lombard, Jacob Church, Hannah Cornelia. Lakespeare. Tuggeranong Town Park Friday February 23rd at 6.30 p.m.  Bookings:


Reviewed by Peter Wilkins


 As if by royal command, the midday storm that lashed Canberra abated. A clear twilight sky looked down on Tuggeranong Town Park where a large crowd gathered on blankets, rugs and chairs on the grass to watch Lakespeare’s free open air production of Shakespeare’s Henry V.

In place of swords and armour, Lakespeare has set the scene as a football contest between the two rival teams of France and England. The language remains true to Shakespeare’s text carefully coached by Dr. Duncan Driver in this intelligible and captivating production of Shakespeare’s highly patriotic history play.   Director TW Gibbings’ concept of presenting the war between the two great European powers in 1415 as a modern-day rugby clash serves as a contemporary metaphor for the bitter enmity. It’s a bit of a stretch to compare a World Cup rugby match to the blood and gore of the Battle of Agincourt but for the audience seated around the open air staging, Gibbings’ metaphor was instantly recognizable. Lakespeare’s production was highly entertaining, while Shakespeare’s text lost none of its import in the telling. As the Chorus, Max Gambale’s Referee filled the space with excitement, action and the power of storytelling. His voice soared over the transfixed audience drawing them into the history and adventure of Shakespeare’s chronicle. The audience was divided into supporters of the British and French teams and supplied with flags to wave and taught to cheer for their team. T shirts. in the colours of the country and with names of each character and their team number emblazoned on the back each character and their various roles were easily distinguished. Only the editing  and sometime removal of scenes led to some confusion for an audience unfamiliar with the play or perplexity by some who may have a greater knowledge of the text, but Gambale’s clear narration and the excellent performances and abounding energy of the young cast paid due homage to the story and the themes of Henry V.

Jake Fryer-Hornsby as Henry V

As Henry V, Jake Fryer-Hornsby gives a sterling performance as the reformed Prince Hal from Henry lV Part 2. He is in every sense a king, wilful, wily, courageous, compassionate and the epitomy of an ideal monarch in contrast to Gambale’s waspish Charles Vl of France and  Anneke van der Velde’s arrogant Dauphin. From his valiant cry of “Once more unto the breach dear friends to his rallying “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers" or his awkward wooing of Princess Kate, Fryer-Hornsby can be counted amongst the very best of the Henry Vs I have seen on stage and screen. The battle scenes may not have the violence and brutality of the battle of Agincourt, but the football match serves well enough to express the challenges of the combat and the sacrifices in the quest for conquest. Shakespeare and Lakespeare have highlighted the virtue of inspired leadership, the futility of war and the reward for virtuous valour. Fryer-Hornsby is thrilling to watch as he breathes fire and brimstone and gentle humanity into this complex human being.

Max Gambale as the Chorus (Referee) in Henry V

The scene between Princess Kate (Marni Mount) and Alice (Annabelle Hansen), spoken largely in French and broken English is a sheer delight. Both Hansen and Mount deliver charm and innocence in equal measure in their scene together as well as in the wooing with Henry that breaks any tension with delightful humour and natural ease.

Gibbings’ concept lends itself to a humour that underpins irony, cynicism and human folly. Even the inclusion of sponsors’ names in the text provides a ready source for laughter from the groundlings who revel in the production under an almost full moon.  This production is a perfect fit for Lakespeare and the company’s mission to present open air performances of Shakespeare’s plays to the Canberra community.

Annabelle Hansen as the French Herald Montjoy

In 1599 Shakespeare wrote the play to open the new Globe on Southbank.  In 1997 I watched Mark Rylance play the king in traditional dress as the first all-male production at Sam Wanamaker’s new Globe. Gibbings’ production is Lakespeare’s first history play and its fifth Shakespeare production. It may be unconventional but it has the power to excite and stir the heart and remind us of the virtue of true leadership. Henry V is a wonderful story, fabulously told by a cast bursting with energy and passion. There are no more open air performances sadly, but lovers of Shakespeare and aficionados of good theatre can still catch the final Down at the Pub performance at Verity Lane on Tuesday February 27th at 6.30. If you have seen it in the park, then it will be worth seeing this again in the intimacy of a Pub. It is your last chance to see “a little touch of Harry in the night.”

Photos by Martin Ollman