Pertinently taking place in the same year as the 100 year anniversary of the First World War, Mingled Yarn’s Harry the King, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Henry V, is a bold, modern take on a legendary tale.
Actresses Lucy Fyffe and Sally O’Leary present their versions of the macho roles of Henry V in this adaptation, in a cheeky reversal of the Elizabethan ban on women on the stage. Blood, battle and death prevail, and the stage is a mess by the time they’ve finished with Shakespeare’s barbaric tale of love and war.
The bloodstained curtains of the set promise a gruesome set of events. Centering on the battle of Agincourt as its main event, Mingled Yarn’s work also focuses on the battle within the king himself over the huge death toll run up by his refusal to be dishonoured, and the blood on his hands. It can also be seen as a nod towards the absurdity and futility of war, and the needless slaying of thousands upon thousands of innocent men, ever relevant with the escalating intensity of war zones across the globe.
Both Fyffe and O’Leary navigate the ebb and flow of Shakespeare’s original text with poise and skill, and their passion seems to know no bounds. Fyffe’s rousing call to battle almost has us standing on our feet ready to join in. O’Leary’s ability to flit between a diverse range of characters is admirable, not least for her lapse into peals of French in a brief spell as Katherine, daughter of the King of France and subject of Harry’s affections.
By condensing the original play into an hour but sticking to slices of the original script, what results is a strange mix of traditional and modern, each seeming to pull at the other. And whilst the battle scenes were very artful, they remained understated, lacking the degree of bloody gore that felt needed to match the cast’s bloodthirsty performances. Nevertheless the cast must be commended on a fearless choice of material and a solid show.
Harry the King plays at Zoo Southside until 25 August 2014 as part of the Edinburgh Fringe. For more information and tickets, visit the EdFringe website.