By Anne Flinders, dramaturg
On the 28th of November, the TMA 401 class performed their devised production of Henry 5 as a Mask Club performance in the Nelke Theatre on BYU’s campus before an audience of theatre students, professors, and invited guests.
The production was prepared and staged by four groups that had been created during the semester from the TMA 401 class. Each group was assigned to prepare one of the first four acts from Shakespeare’s The Life of King Henry the Fifth. The groups each chose their own concepts, developed their own cuttings of the script, and created costumes and props supporting their productions.
After working on these individual pieces during the semester, the groups came together for two rehearsals to develop connection and flow between each act, melding the four pieces into one cohesive production. Lighting and sound were inserted during these rehearsals to augment the play, and on the afternoon of November 28th, the devised production of The Henry 5 Project “went on the boards.” Perhaps sharing accounts of the play from audience members would be a helpful way of describing what took place on the Nelke stage that afternoon. The following is a compilation of comments and observations made by students who are members of TMA 101, Intro to Theatre.
“The play begins with five actors in preppy tennis clothes, who fight verbally while viciously swinging tennis rackets, representing the back-and-forth-battle between England and France. The next scene is done by a group of five all dressed in everyday clothes such as jeans and sweaters, with one of the characters rapping a complaint about his associations with some of Henry’s former friends and the impending war about to take place. In the next scene, all the actors wear black face paint and stomp around in leather clothing, exposing traitors to Henry and thieves among the ranks of British soldiers. Finally, the actors in the last scene huddle around a fire, with ‘spears’ for props, while singing a pop song as a rallying cry.
“Through dramatic body movement using techniques like viewpointing and Suzuki, the different acts of Henry 5 were able to have a cohesive theme. All the body movements throughout the separate acts were succinct and deliberate motions; strong body motions and hand gestures were used to create war-like actions. Despite the contributions from many different groups, the solid movements came across as a consistent element of the play. One particularly strong choice was the transfer of the role of Henry from actor to actor (all played by women). This was done by actors placing a hand on each other’s shoulder and then rotating a quarter turn to exchange both stage position and character.
“The modern costume styles and color choices also connected the scenes together to make the play one cohesive story. The English all had hues of red with accents of black, while the French were costumed in blue tones. Overall there was a consistent feeling of characterization and opposition between warm and cool colors. At one point, King Henry was distinguished by a gold beanie to represent a crown.
“Although very different from the original play, The Henry 5 Project did a great job of using elements such as costuming and movement to portray the four groups’ different concepts and interpretations of the classic script. Each scene had its own distinctive style that separated it from the other scenes, but despite the many different voices, the story of King Henry came through in a consistent, unified, and entertaining production.”