Saturday, May 04, 2019

Henry 5 at the Globe

I went to see H5 at the Globe last night.  H5 was played by a Black woman, who was very good, very commanding.  Overall, though, it was a cool evening, had rained earlier, and the house was probably less than half full, so the cast had difficulty developing the energy I usually see.  I like to think we're all happy with gender and race blind casting.  I thought I was.  But then the Alice and Princess Katherine scene came, and I decided maybe I wasn't so comfortable as I complacently thought I was.  Katherine was played by a middle aged white man, not in drag; that is, there was no attempt to look "feminine" except that he wore a dress.   He didn't seem to have a wig on (was partly balding with short hair), and he seemed definitely middle-aged. And boy, did that challenge me! For those not familiar with Henry 5: French Princess Katharine pretty much knows she's going to be married off to Henry, the English king; in this scene, she's with her waiting gentlewoman, who seems to know a bit of English, and starts asking for translations of words for body parts.  Hands, fingers, arm, elbow, neck, chin, feet.  For those who have French and English, there are near homophones of "naughty" words in the pronunciations, "dilbo," "cun" "foot" and so forth. Some of the amusement from the scene traditionally comes from watching a presumably innocent young woman talking sexy, and finding the license to say "foot" for example, funny.  With this Katherine, however, the humor there didn't really work for me, which weirdly made the sort of cruel gap of the knowing audience laughing at the innocent young woman stand out all the more.  So that was interesting. And when the courting scene (where Henry meets Katherine and "courts" her, though we all know this is a pretense since her father will decide and she has no choice) came, I didn't feel any of the amusement in the teasing from Henry about language and such.  Maybe the two actors didn't have chemistry, or maybe it was my hangup with the man playing Katherine? Usually, in race and gender blind casting, at least in Shakespeare, you see people of color playing white roles, and women playing men's roles.  On one level, that makes sense because there's a paucity of roles for women and people of color in the plays.  But it means that you have actors from traditionally less powerful groups (people of color, women) playing characters from a more powerful group (white men).  But in Katherine's casting, a white man played a woman, and a woman with pretty much no power at all (since she's basically a political pawn). *** Otherwise: the production seemed a bit rough at the edges, with people either stepping on each other's lines in the prologue, or not quite speaking together (if they were supposed to be speaking together). There were times I really couldn't hear well (I was in the upper gallery for the first time, front row). But usually I could. And I couldn't always understand what I was hearing, and not only because it was French... *** I'm trying to find reviews of this production, but don't see any. I'm wondering how long it's been playing? (It's pretty early in the season, after all.)

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