Review: Henry the Fifth, Unicorn

“This is a story about a king”

The Unicorn’s A Winter’s Tale, written by Ignace Cornelissen from Shakespeare, was something unexpectedly brilliant last year, and powerfully moving – unsure of what to expect, I didn’t think that I’d be crying for a good while after at what was ostensibly a children’s show. So you’d think I’d be pre-warned going into Henry the Fifth, likewise an adaptation of, or more accurately a response to, Henry V, but once again, I found myself weeping, most likely scaring the children around me and even now, I’m unable to look at a balloon without welling up.

Cornelissen, translated by Purni Morell, re-envisages the war at the heart of the play as a playground struggle and in Ellen MacDougall’s lucid production, we see that the actions of those concerned are as impactful whether on a school field or a battlefield. The power games of climbing to the top and grabbing it all apply equally in both scenarios but more tellingly, the effect that they have on the people around them can be absolutely devastating. It is such a simple technique but one which is spellbindingly effective. Continue reading “Review: Henry the Fifth, Unicorn”

Review: A Winter’s Tale, Unicorn

“It’s a well-known fact that hard-hearted kings often melt in the face of innocent babies”

The family-centric Unicorn Theatre invites us into a world of make-believe with this production of Ignace Cornelissen’s A Winter’s Tale. Four actors are putting on a playful performance of The Winter’s Tale but we see them slipping in and out of their roles as they squabble about who gets the best parts, take time out for sandwiches and get lost in the personas they are playing, whilst giving us a condensed version of Shakespeare’s tale of a king whose jealousies of his wife and best friend has far-reaching consequences. With crocodiles.

And playful is the word. The company of four relish the freedom they’re granted here: Ben Caplan’s King Freddy (Leontes) is an amusingly disgruntled figure who is the self-appointed leader of the group and Sam Swann’s King Tunde (Polixenes) an appealingly chilled-out presence whose easy friendship with Ginny Holder’s Queen Tamara (Hermione) provokes Freddy’s ire. Flemish Cornelissen doesn’t back away from the darkness of the story in Bohemia either, though he tempers the sadder moments with quick comic cuts – Holder bearing the brunt of the funniest one – always reminding the audience that this is just a tale we’re watching. Continue reading “Review: A Winter’s Tale, Unicorn”