Henry V Rehearsals Day 7

What a fine day to wake up to! A great omen for the second day of this weeks rehearsals.

During our ‘french scening’, (it’s not as risqué as it sounds!) our diligent Assistant Directors and Dramaturge collected together all of the references to Animals & Weather, Nation, Love, Death, particular places and people that are mentioned amongst other important factors as we went along, using a page per french scene.

So today we laid all 52 pages around the edges of the room, creating a timeline of the play that included all of the references within it. Looking at the play in this way physically brought out patterns and arcs, peaks and troughs of particular themes that wouldn’t have been as clear to us by simply reading the text through.

We found that horses were the most frequently used animals throughout the play, referred to firstly as domestic animals for farming etc then becoming ‘steeds’ for war, following the English army into battle and finally ending up in the bloody fields of Agincourt unable to pull themselves up, wounding their deceased riders again and again with their armoured hooves. In terms of weather, water was used more than any other element and there seemed to be a natural transgression from floods and turbulent currents at the beginning of the play to the clouds slowly shifting and breaking away in the middle when Harry rouses her troops to war. Then finally, and in stark contrast to the dark and bloody realities of war at Agincourt, there is such strong imagery of the the sun, shining down bright and strong. This reminded us somewhat of Harry’s journey and her coming of age from woman to monarch, with her turbulent instability and doubt that she feels within herself from the beginning, to finding her strengths and gaining self confidence and inner steel as the play goes on.
Knowing exactly where themes such as this are deliberately incorporated or ominously absent speaks volumes.

After lunch we shared hymns that the group had previously collected, picking four that particularly resonated with the play. We this split into four groups and created our own personal melody for the first two verses.

They ranged from a very celtic seafaring song, to a darker minor toned hymn, to one that seemed to particularly resonate with ricky and the group. We first sang it all together and then in the round. Interestingly, particular words kept pulling themselves out of the confusion and the ear immediately honed into them, such as ‘be still my soul’ and ‘friend’. Which reminded me somewhat of Harry’s ‘Once more onto the breach, dear friends’ speech.

We then played with the first verse in the very well known hymn, ‘All things bright and beautiful’ (i bet your humming the tine right now!). Thoughts then went on to our remembrances of congregations in Church, and how there is always someone singing louder than everyone else with such gusto, usually out of tune, carrying on the note when everyone has given up and gone onto the next line. But that is the great thing about hymns they belong to whoever utters them. Just as we are doing today, you take from them what you will and interpret them, however stoically or ridiculously. By their unique deliverance you are releasing a little more of your own identity. Like a deeply personal prayer that is further lifted to the heavens on the wing of a melody.

I feel that these hymns are going to have a really profound effect on particular moments in the performance for all those witness to it.

Who knows, perhaps you be unable to resist blasting out our your own rendition of ‘All things bright and beautiful!’ along with the Lazarus soldiers! We shall wait and see.

L.G – Reporting for Duty.

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