|Audition Notice||Henry V||
by William Shakespeare
John McSpadyen is now in his 28th year as a Tower member, having been an ASM, SM,
technical operator, set designer, actor and director. He has been onstage in (amongst others) Blue Remembered Hills,
Les Liaisons Dangereuses, The Factory Girls, Translations, Dealer's Choice, Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll, Farragut North, Hindle Wakes
and Pravda. His productions as director include Copenhagen, Faith Healer, The Constant Wife, Bash,
Speaking in Tongues and Farewell to the Theatre. In between shows, he can generally be found wielding a power tool
at a Sunday get-in. Away from the Tower, John bakes shortbread and watches TV quiz shows.
The director writes :
I was surprised, on looking into the archive, that the Tower has never staged Henry V. It is one of the most famous plays in the English language, with some of the most memorable lines and scenes : "O for a muse of fire", "Once more unto the breach", "Now entertain conjecture of a time", "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers", "A little touch of Harry in the night". It is a mixture of complex emotion, great drama, and low comedy - with the odd battle thrown in!
The plot, put simply, is this : Henry V, having ascended to the throne on the death of his father, plans to invade France to claim the throne for himself. After several battles, the English forces win against superior numbers at Agincourt. Henry marries the French King's daughter to cement the peace.
However, the plot is not really the point. Shakespeare looks hard at the nature of power, and those in the various social levels that surround it. He mixes low-life humour with high politics, philosophy with action and romance with war. It is a heady cocktail, and one I am looking forward to exploring.
My approach to the play :
Apart from the great language and drama of Shakespeare's play, two things have sparked my imagination : the auditorium at the new theatre, which readily calls to mind the "wooden 'O'" referred to in the opening speech; and the character of the Chorus, who is always reminding us that we are in the theatre watching a play - no other play I can think of does this.
Running with that idea, I see the character of the Chorus as the play's Stage Manager and the cast running the play as a final rehearsal, the way we do when we are just about to move into the theatre : in modern dress, with minimal costumes and scenery BUT with full performance energy. This will reinforce the play's theatricality, and hopefully ease the burden of the set and costume designers ...
The script :
I am cutting/editing the script to keep the play fast-moving and dramatic yet also maintain the play's poetry and humour. The edited script can be obtained from the Tower Office or the Director very soon, if not by the time you see this audition notice. Please read before auditioning.
The cast and characters :
It is my intention to go for non-traditional casting, as the play is very male-heavy. To this end, I will be casting an ensemble that will be gender- and race-blind and broadly 50/50 male-female. Any person, male or female, can audition for any part, male or female. The size of this ensemble will be around 12-14. All cast members will play multiple parts apart from Henry and, possibly, the Chorus.
Cast required :
In the uncut script of Henry V, there are over 40 named characters. Some appear just for a few lines, some in a number of scenes. Please look over the script to judge the size of the
part and the character. Age indicators are given only as a guideline.
Please make it clear if you wish to audition for certain rôles only and are not prepared to accept another part.
Chorus (any age) : Our guide through the play. Should be able to address the audience directly and draw them into the play. Part commentator, part storyteller.
King Henry V (late 20s at the time of Agincourt) : Wild in his youth - see Henry IV Parts 1 and 2 - now reformed. Strong and determined, but with moments of introspection and doubt.
Duke of Gloucester, Duke of Bedford (both 20s) : Younger brothers to the King.
Duke of Exeter (40s+) : Uncle to the King: Strong, warlike. Great supporter of Henry.
Duke of York (20s/30s) : Cousin to the King. Nobleman, keen to lead the troops at Agincourt.
Earl of Westmoreland, Earl of Warwick, Earl of Salisbury (any age) : Noblemen and leaders of the English army.
Archbishop of Canterbury (older/any age) : Shrewd, great political manipulator. Supplies historical and documentary backing for Henry's claim to the French throne.
The Bishop of Ely (any age) : Colleague, assistant to the Archbishop.
Lord Scroop of Masham, Richard Earl of Cambridge, Sir Thomas Grey of Northumberland (20s-30s) : Friends of the King, discovered to be traitors. Executed by Henry before leaving for France.
Sir Thomas Erpingham (older) : A wise, veteran officer of the English army.
Ancient (Ensign) Pistol (older) : Formerly in service - with Bardolph and Nym- to Sir John Falstaff (all banished by Henry at the end of Henry IV Part 2). A loud, cowardly braggart who uses the war as an excuse to rob and pillage.
Lieutenant Bardolph, Corporal Nym (older) : Soldiers in the English Army. Both are executed during the play for thieving.
Boy (younger) : Former page to Falstaff. Goes to war with the others, aware and ashamed they are thieves and cowards.
Mistress Quickly (older) : Hostess of the Boar's Head Tavern in Eastcheap, now married to Pistol. She gives a beautiful speech on the (offstage) death of Falstaff.
Captain Fluellen (older) : Officer in the English army. Strong Welsh accent. Has a comic presence, but is intelligent and a loyal and steadfast soldier.
Captain Gower (any age) : English officer. Good friends with Fluellen.
Captain Jamy (Scottish, any age), Captain Macmorris (Irish, any age) : Officers in the English army.
John Bates, Alexander Court, Michael Williams (any age) : Three soldiers in the English army. They have an excellent scene with Henry prior to Agincourt.
Charles the Sixth, King of France (older) : Respected monarch, politically and strategically astute. Cautious to engage the English to begin with but reacts strongly when required.
Lewis, the Dauphin (late 20s) : Fiery, arrogant, egotistical. Does not take Henry or the English army seriously.
Queen Isabel of France (older) : Appears in last act of the play in a formal capacity.
Katherine (early 20s) : French princess. Aware of her position as a bargaining chip. Strong scene with Henry at the end of the play. Cannot speak English well.
Alice (any age, older than Katherine) : Attendant to Katherine. Saucy, clever, funny. Knows & loves her mistress well.
The Constable of France (30s-40s) : Commander-in-Chief of the French army. Seasoned military man. Finds the Dauphin annoying.
Duke of Orleans, Duke of Bourbon, Duke of Bretagne, Lord Rambures, Lord Grandpré (any ages): Noblemen and leaders of the French army.
Duke of Burgundy (any age/older) : Chair of the peace negotiations after Agincourt
Governor of Harfleur (any age)
Montjoy (any age) : French Herald/ Ambassador. Patriotic but a realist: sees more in Henry than the other French aristocracy. P.S. I have added a few spare lines from other characters to give a stronger through-line in the play.
Other Lords, Soldiers, Messengers and Attendants : to be played by members of the cast.