While the majority of teens are spending their summer at the beach or on the couch with Netflix, sixteen fearless Vancouver teens are spending part of theirs in a production of Henry V.
Now in its 25th year, the Carousel Theatre Teen Shakespeare Program is a six-week intensive for 13-18 year olds, who receive training in voice, movement, and text analysis. Using all they have learned, the program culminates with a fully-staged public performance. Under the direction of Carousel Theatre instructor Mike Stack, this year’s production is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s history play, Henry V.
In Stack’s much condensed 75 minutes (with intermission), we get all the highlights without losing any of its story. Picking up where Henry IV, Part 2 ends, the newly installed Henry V is out to prove that his youthful days are over, looking to bring stability and restore honour to England. Convinced by the Archbishop of Canterbury that he has rightful claim to France, against all odds, Henry crosses the English Channel and wages war on the French. Despite being outnumbered, he is victorious, and in the end, he also gets the girl.
16-year old Noah Heyl plays the title role, and now in his third year with the Carousel program, it shows. As he wanders among his soldiers before the Battle of Agincourt, there is a real humanity in the realization of his true responsibilities as king. Heyl’s performance really kicks in with both his prayer and the rousing St Crispin’s Day speech (“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers …’’) the next day. Paired with Darquise St. Germain as Princess Katherine at the play’s conclusion, there is an innocence to their forced marriage that is surprisingly tender.
Helping to keep everything on track are the Chorus of Ella Berger and Jessica Ingham. Traditionally played by a single character, this narrator role is made even more vital in this abbreviated version, and this duo brings a real clarity to their duty of introducing each of the play’s scenes. Their opening speech, inviting the audience to use their imaginations as this massive story unfolds, is a highlight.
Bringing some much needed comedic relief is Julian Levy as Pistole, a holdover from King Henry’s younger days. Absolutely fearless among a sea of fearless actors, Levy goes big, and where that might not always work, he simply gives in to his character’s swagger with memorable results. He is nicely paired with his compatriots Atticus Cseh and Jonah Heyl as Nym and Bardolph respectively.
Laura Reynolds gives Fluellen the much needed balance of Henry’s loyal Welsh soldier while also offering up some additional comic relief to the bloody battles. She goes for broke with a Welsh accent, and the scene in which she force feeds the leek to Pistole is hilarious.
Isaac McAndless-Davis leads his French army with authority, and Elitza Marinova-Todd is suitably stoic in the role of the Dauphin. The supporting cast of Bronwen Bente, Fiona Goldberg, Claire Henry, Daisy Hulme, Sean Mawhinney and Fox Mutual all provide much needed support to the featured players and shine in director Stack’s choreographed fight scenes.
The ‘new’ outdoor stage at Performance Works on Granville Island bears witness to the next generation of Vancouver actors. Their fearlessness now will go a long way in preparing them for the future.
Henry V by William Shakespeare. Directed by Mike Stack. A Carousel Theatre for Young People Teen Shakespeare Program production. On stage at the Performance Works Outdoor Stage (1218 Cartwright St, Granville Island, Vancouver) until August 8. Visit http://carouseltheatre.ca for tickets and information.