Action packed Shakespearean classic brought to life

IT’S once more unto the breach dear friends for the Mouth to Mouth Theatre Company.

Members are bringing Kenneth Branagh’s breathtaking 1989 screenplay of Henry V to life at Eye Castle from July 21-24 and July 28-31.

Director and company founder James Holloway has always wanted to stage the play, which is rarely performed despite containing some of the best-known Shakespearian speeches.

“I did not want to present a stagey declamatory style, but believed it needed to be an epic, all action production,” he said.

“The Branagh screenplay presented the possibility of big fight scenes impossible at in door venues. An outdoor venue where we could build tiered playing areas for a highly visual and filmic production was needed and Eye Castle, with its natural amphitheatre, is ideal. We want to entertain but at the same time provide edgy and transformed theatre that pushes boundaries and expectations.”

Action-lovers won’t be disappointed.

Keith Wallis, whose recent film credits include Russell Crowe’s Robin Hood, has choreographed some battle scenes and ran stage combat workshops for the cast.

Most Read

“I’d heard about Keith from Suffolk-based Longbow men who were involved and featured in the Robin Hood movie. He was one of the many fight arrangers and has worked on a number of film and stage projects.

“Despite having no funding for our project I decided to employ him for five days of workshops and as well as our professional actors, Keith taught all the extras we had recruited.

“He was fantastic and we soon ran out of room at the Cut theatre where the company are based. Fortunately the weather has meant we could rehearse out side at Eye castle,” added James.

“Making stage fighting look realistic while maintaining safety is a real art, fantastically exciting and very exhausting. Many of our extras come from diverse backgrounds from Sizwell B, Network rail, garages and sixth form colleges.”

Monk Soham-based engineering firm RH Barrell have forged more than 50 broadswords for the production.

They also specialise in rebuilding Second World War tanks and James got to know Adrian Barrell when he let the company use a Second World War Sherman tank to use as a stage for the play Accidental Death of a Terrorist.

“As swords are hard to come by and expensive to hire, Adrian’s price was competitive and of course the company will own them and be able to hire them out. Also some of the actors wish to purchase their own.”

The costumes are being provided by Flame Torbay, who are experts in all things military and provide period costumes to huge productions and films.

The company was formed in 1960 as a fancy dress business in Torquay. During the 1980s it developed into a costumier to the theatre, film and television industries based on the military uniform collection of the owner, Lionel Digby, supplemented by the later purchase of Caledonian Costumes of London.

They have provided Mouth to Mouth with costumes since James’ first Shakespeare production of Hamlet in Framlingham Castle in 1986.

The production will also feature original music especially written by Norfolk composer William Drew-Batty to accompany the show.

“This is a very exciting development for us,” added producer Steve Peck. “William’s last piece was written to accompany Terry Waites’ reflections on his years as a hostage in Lebanon and performed live at Bury St Edmunds Cathedral.”

Veteran BBC and independent filmmaker Bob Edwards will be filming the production on multiple cameras during costume rehearsals.

“The DVD will be put on You tube and initially screened at The Cut Theatre Halesworth, Cambridge Strawberry film festival and the local Screen East network,” said James.

“This will be the first time we’ve filmed a production in its entirety, although we have filmed sequences and used them in some of our live performances. It’s a very exciting development.”

Mouth To Mouth Theatre Company has been staging shows since 1986 with King Lear at Leiston abbey, with Lear riding a black stallion, horse and carriages for Romeo and Juliet in Framlingham where the market square became a large Italian piazza for four days, Richard III at Framlingham castle with a massive cast including members of the Richard III society and Macbeth at Orford Castle.

It has taked its productions across the East of England, from York to Kent, and finally created The Cut Theatre in Halesworth where they are the resident theatre company. Working with choreographers, the company have developed a highly physical creative form of theatre and train up to 100 young people a week in performing arts at The Cut theatre.

It has toured Comedy of Errors and will appear for the fourth time at The Latitude Festival, which started last night and continues until July 18.

“Henry V is a real crowd pleaser, but the company never goes for the obvious. This is a new Henry V and I’d be proud to take this production anywhere in the world. Transforming plays is what we do, so come and see for yourselves,” added James.