A Company of Fools presents Henry V

Part of Ottawa’s theatre scene since 1990, A Company of Fools has earned a reputation for their dramatic and comical interpretations of Shakespearean works, and for creating accessible and entertaining shows for all ages.  This year, the Fools take on Henry V.

It’s always a bit hard to know what you’re going to get when you head out to a Fools show.  Their productions draw on many theatre styles and devices, and it is not uncommon for them to employ puppetry, modern pop culture or political references in the style of pantomime, or for their characters to burst into top 100 rock ballads. It’s always entertaining, but important to know that they are interpretations of Shakespeare’s works, not verbatim retellings - a style that certainly lends itself to the comedies, but one which would seem to be more challenging with the histories.  Their interpretation of the tragedy of Antony and Cleopatra last year (“the Brangelina of ancient Egypt”) was highly successful, though, and they were clearly ready for a new challenge. Described as part “Saving Private Ryan” and part “Before Sunrise”, the Fools’ production of Henry V focuses on the love story between Henry (Margo MacDonald) and Katherine (Simon Bradshaw).  So it’s boy meets girl.  Except the girl is a boy and the boy is a girl.  Confused?  Here’s the synopsis:

Fools Crew

(Photo credit: Andrew Alexander)

From the royal castles of England to the bleak battlefields of France, this show is a wild roller-coaster fueled by pride and adrenaline.  With a boy (read: girl) eagerly trying to prove himself as a king, a girl (read: boy) haphazardly trying to learn English, conspiratorial puppets, foam swords, a seemingly bottomless trunk and a whole lot of tennis balls, Henry V has something for everybody!

Gender-bending and cross-casting is certainly nothing new - in Shakespeare’s time all the roles were played by men, which only added an extra layer of humour and irony to his common comedic theme of women disguising themselves as men.  What presents a challenge in keeping his plays relevant in modern times, however, is the lack of strong female roles.  There are certainly a few memorable women in Shakespearean plays - Lady Macbeth and Regan (King Lear) being two of those.  But the number of strong male roles far outnumber those of the women.  So it’s no surprise that modern interpretations are turning those traditions on their head. Bear & Co.’s current production of As You Like It has turned the Dukes into women, and the Fools have taken it a step further by gender-reversing their two leads.

Henry V

Fools Director Geoff McBride explains his casting decision: “Ottawa has some very strong female actors and it seemed a shame to only offer them roles as a princess who gets married off for land and her lady in waiting.  Margo is all about the text and the character, if you play it well it doesn’t matter if you’re a boy or a girl.  It ain’t a big thing.” 

Henry V is directed by Geoff McBride and features Margo MacDonald, Simon Bradshaw, Kelly Rigole, Katie Ryerson and Virginia West.

Admission is by Pass-the-Hat donation ($15 suggested contribution).

The show runs from July 2nd through August 18th at parks across Ottawa (every Monday night is Strathcona Park) - for full details on dates/times see the website at fools.ca.

Other Media

The Production Ottawa review of Henry V
Her Majesty King Henry the Fifth (Visitorium)
Henry V in the park: a timely… (Capital Critics)
Henry V A Company of Fools (Ottawa Citizen)

(If you know of any press not listed here, leave us a comment or send us a note.)

Reena Belford

About Reena Belford

Reena Belford is a sometimes actress with a passion for promoting and supporting Ottawa's local theatre community. She keeps Production Ottawa's calendar (Ottawa's most complete theatre calendar) up-to-date and is a semi-regular contributor and writer.

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