Imagine one of the most epic battle stories ever written, played out on a stage that's barely larger than a bedroom. Don't think it can be done? Think again.
Voices Found Repertory brings the fight for what may be their most ambitious project yet: Shakespeare's Henry V. Director Alec Lachman has the script stripped down to the bare essentials, running at 90 minutes with no intermission. The result is nothing less than electric.
Jake Thompson. All photos courtesy of Lily Shea Photography.
Jake Thompson takes up the mantle of the title role. His Henry is temperate and intelligent. The nuance of Thompson's performance invites audiences to see into the king's mind as he deliberates over each strategic move. This builds an inherent contrast between the nature of the English and the passionate French, led by impulsive brat prince Dauphin (Rebekah Farr). As powers shift, so does the dynamic between the two leaders, culminating with Connor Blakenship's fast and furious choreography during the Battle of Agincourt.
Cole Conrad, Rebekah Farr, and Haley Ebinal.
While rooted in the bloodshed of Saint Crispin's Day, Henry V lives and breathes in its moments of levity. Farr instigates her fellow Frenchmen with petty chatter and mock, mock, mock - think Joffrey from Game of Thrones. Other highlights on the French side of things include Thomas Sebald and Caroline Fossum (Alice and Katharine, respectively) in a lady-in-waiting scene with a gendered twist.
Caroline Norton, Andy Montano, and Haley Ebinal.
Back in England, the comedy is upheld by Pistol (Caroline Norton), Bardolph (Andy Montano), and Nym (Haley Ebinal). With Three Stooges -esque shenanigans, the three give audiences a glimpse into the absurdity of war from the eyes of the everyman. Brandon Haut's prop work gives them the tools necessary to leave audiences in stitches.
Jake Thompson, Thomas Sebald, and Caroline Fossum.
Separate from the throes of politics lies a tender romance between Henry and Katherine. While divided by language and origin, the two seem to exist in something which transcends boundary. Thompson is quite the charmer, even as Henry phrases his way around his analytical nature. Fossum quickly warms to his advances and takes agency as a coy woman of significance. Their dynamic is endearing, the tension is palpable, and the dialogue is a dance.
The atmosphere of the show is expertly crafted by The Twilight's sound design and Michael Cienfuegos Baca's scenic design. The set is visually stimulating, with details down to the moss which creeps between stone walls, and yet surprisingly adaptable. It takes little effort to suspend disbelief from royal courts, to battlefields, to bars. The Twilight's sound follows the locations with equal mastery. Their work underscores almost the entire story, setting music and mood to the character of the courts and context to the outdoors. Together, the tight space of the Underground Collaborative is expanded into an entire world.
The company of Henry V.
The production's greatest strength is the accessibility of the chorus. This text uses the chorus to deliver vital information and updates on the progress of the impending war between England and France, and cannot be left out. However, traditionally delivered, these interludes can be stiff and fall lifelessly upon modern ears. Lachman instead divides the lines among the company to emphasize significance across loyalty lines and class divides. This invites a flurry of activity between scenes and further reaffirms the stances of the many characters, bringing the script to life for today's patrons.
Voices Found Repertory has a strong reputation in the Milwaukee area for invigorating classic theatre. This, though - this is beyond expectation. Henry V is a trip straight to the frontlines. It carries the energy of live sport, political debate, and new flame, and all in a swift 90 minutes. The show runs through December 15th.