I belong to a small but non-exclusive fraternity.
Anyone can join, although there is only one way to qualify. You have to perform a solo version of Shakespeare’s play Henry V.
That’s all. Once you’ve done that you automatically have life-long membership.
Way back in the last millennium I did such a show at the smallest (but well-known) theatre in Great Britain, aptly named The Little Theatre.
It was on the remote (but popular in the summer) Inner Hebridean Island called Mull. It was my first job as a professional actor, the story is available here.
The place was eleven miles from a bus stop and there was fixed seating for 37 patrons, but a lot of the time we played to more than that. Over 100% capacity.
A lot of Mull’s landscape is wild and sparse. It’s not the first place you’d think of for theatre.
I thought back then that such a gig was unusual for content as well as location, possibly unique. However, over the years at regular intervals I encountered three, count them, three (!) other one-man productions of Henry V.
No surprise then that my dear friend and sometime fellow-student, colleague in decorating, drinking buddy, fine actor and writer, Mark Carey, has gained membership in this fellowship of Henrys with his delightful piece, ‘Into The Breach’.
Mark’s show is set in second world wartime Devon in England’s south-west, and as well as the up to 40,000 or so parts that anyone undertaking Henry V plays by implication (the French and English armies), Mark has added an entire village as seen through the eyes of his leading man George Crocker. I think it’s no spoiler to let you know that Widow Twanky plays a vital role. The show is a complete delight, and I for one, am thrilled that someone has at last shown the rest of us Henry-soloists how it should be done.
There is a website: http://intothebreach.info If you happen to be in London on Sunday December 29th 2013, go to The White Bear Theatre at 6pm, 138 Kennington Park Road: box office 0207 793 9193
The show is fab, and at 8 quid a time (5 concessions) it’s a seasonal winner!
Highly recommended, five stars,
If you see one show this year … etc!
‘Course if you’re in New York, you could spend approximately $400 for top price tix to Twelfth Night … hmn … I know which one I’d choose.
Issues of then and now, the nature of eternity, and whether time flows only forward, have been current with me lately. Because last week I went to London to the 30th year re-union of Stage 83 my graduating class from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. It was a truly lovely occasion. Great to see so many old friends.
Apart from the physical ravages of the years in passing time, none of us are really any different at all.
As you see there’s quite a lot of white hair, and some places where there’s no hair at all. The school itself has undergone a series of developments including several new buildings, in fact our re-union matinee took place in a room that did not exist when we were students. There we all are standing on the set of a student production in the refurbished Embassy Theatre. To have achieved such transformations as well as a greatly expanded academic reach, speaks of serious money.
George Hall ran the acting course in my day, and I thought he was a genius. In one crit session he said to one of our classmates, “Darling it’s as if you know all about the XYZ of acting, but nothing about the ABC.” We responded variously to his comment. Then he said, as he usually did when offering some insight, “Does that make sense?”
Speaking as one who feels that he understands less and less about the craft as time passes, my answer 30 years later is, “It didn’t then, but it sure does now.”
It may not look like much on the page, but for me it is a pithy expression delivered compassionately and with humor from a man who had gained the sort of theatrical wisdom that not a stack of new buildings could match. I feel lucky to have been there.
Meanwhile I have to wonder, are these men related?
I think we should be told.