Review: Between The Armies in Bath
Posted on: 2018-09-26
The director, undertaking her PhD in Shakespeare, appears to have a stable foundation and understanding of the text to take bold risks with the work while keeping soul of the writers original work.
Between the Armies is an adaptation of one of William Shakespeare's Historical Plays by a Bath based Company, Apricity Theatre. The production is based on the events and scenes spanning across both parts 1 and 2 of Henry IV, Focusing on the build up to battle between Prince Harry and Hotspur.
This young company took a well known piece of theatre and examined the bones of it to create a performance that both entertained and questioned a story that might be familiar to the audience. Focusing in on the way narratives can be swayed by the way they are passed on overtime, the adaptor and director, Charlotte Turner- McMullin, endeavored to give voice to the marginalised communities and untold stories of the time. “History is written by the victor” is an idiom that has changed the way the characters and events have existed in their retelling, Between the Army appears to lean into this to raise questions on what we believe we know to be true.
Having part of the play set in an 80s nightclub at the heart of the gay community was a clear effort to draw attention to a marginalised community from a very recent era. This was a staging choice that felt especially effective when Prince Harry assumed the crown and turned his back on his jovial antics in the neon lit backdrop of Eastcheap.
Many of the characterisation choices helped to remove the audience from the previous representations of the story. Theatre goers familiar with the characters as popularly portrayed on stage will be intrigued and encouraged to read the story closely. The opening Monologue is followed by a dance number by the whole cast to some classic 80s club music, a reminder that we are ready to set onto an adventure into Henry IV unlike anything we have experienced.
The whole play takes place on a fairly minimal stage of two scaffolding towers and a neon sign that comes to life when "Eastcheap" is the scene of action. The stage is given life by the productions lighting and sound design which mirrors the cadence and pace of the action on stage. Peppered with smoke, the stage doesn't feel empty as the action makes great use of the space.
The night was truly a tale of two halves, the opening half guided us through an undulating course of gentle peaks, while offering exposition on the three key character groups. King Henry IV, Prince Hal, and Hotspur. The end of the first half offered an unexpected spike in intensity, foreshadowing the physicality awaiting us. This was confirmed by opening the second half with Hotspur and Hal, ready for war, painting their face and changing clothes while the narrator, Rumour, ushered the audience into the next phase of the action.
The higher paced action of the second half kept the intensity high and sped us through the exposition of the story. The choreography offered in the first half was an 80s funfare of attitude and hip action, what the second half offers is a baseball bat swinging, throat throttling roller coaster of a heated battle. The fight choreographers made the most of the actors physical abilities to create gripping sequences that the actors appear to relish and offered the audience some well deserved “oo" inducing moments.
Strong performances from the cast allowed an ambitious production to still hold weight on many levels. What has been offered as the second in a 3 part series of productions by the Directors PhD research leaves plenty of room for exciting new work. The director, undertaking her PhD in Shakespeare, appears to have a stable foundation and understanding of the text to take bold risks with the work while keeping soul of the writers original work.
Saili Katebe is a Poet and Spoken word artist who fell in love with Bristol's creative underbelly. He enjoys tasting everything the city has to offer to the curious heart, eyes, ears and mind. If he is not taking to the stage he is in the crowd enjoying art in all its forms.