Shire Hall provides ‘a kingdom for a stage’ for Henry V

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An innovative production of Shakespeare brings together Lancaster University, professional theatre practitioners from the North West and volunteers from Lancaster and Morecambe, at Lancaster Castle next month.

By staging Henry V in the historic courtroom of the Shire Hall, the performances put Shakespeare’s dramatisation of patriotism and the king himself on trial. Is Henry V ‘the mirror of all Christian kings’ or a war criminal? Or both?

Those involved in the production, on and off stage, along with those attending the performances from May 29 to June 1, will make up their minds and be asked for their opinions.

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Alison Findlay, Professor of Renaissance Drama at Lancaster University, will lead theatre professionals, participants from the English Literature & Creative Writing Department (ELCW), and the West End Players, Morecambe, to consider Shakespeare’s representations of war, truce, heroism, national identity and theatre, through practical work on the production.

Poster designed by final year student Jessica Goold.Poster designed by final year student Jessica Goold.
Poster designed by final year student Jessica Goold.

It will be directed by professional theatre director Emma Rucastle, who has worked in professional, community and educational settings since 2009.

The project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (UKRI)’s Impact Acceleration Fund

There will be a day of open rehearsal at the Lancaster Suite, Lancaster Castle, on Monday, May 27, from 10am to 5pm, when members of the public can drop in for a taste of the production in action.

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Professor Findlay will also organise and lead a day of public talks ‘By God, for Harry, England and St George: Henry V and English Patriotism’ on June 1 (10am to 4.30pm) in the Lancaster Suite, Lancaster Castle, featuring Professor Chris Fitter (Rutgers University USA), performance poet Matt Panesh (West End Players) and Museum Curator Colin Penny (Curator, Lancaster Castle Museum).

Further details of these events and on the production process, rehearsals, interviews with the actors are available online at Henry V 2024 including materials for those studying the play in schools and colleges.

“This project will bring together communities to engage, inform and transform each other through research-led theatre practice,” explains Professor Findlay.

“It also sustains a tradition of high-quality performance of Shakespearean history at the Castle involving Lancaster students and developing research about the medieval history of the Duchy of Lancaster’ led by members of the University’s History Department and its Regional Heritage Centre.

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“People will notice continuities and differences between Edward III (staged in 2023) and Henry V. A recently recovered document suggests why Shakespeare turned to dramatise earlier medieval English history.”

To book your seat at the production and to attend the talks please book here.