When the Barn Theatre launched their Built by Barn productions for 2019 the announcement that Henry V was to feature as one of their five shows heralded a great deal of anticipation among those present.

Taking on such an iconic piece as this could be described as brave or even foolhardy for such a young theatre, but for those who know the Barn, this year’s winner of The Stage, Fringe Theatre of the Year 2019, they are not one’s for shying away from a challenge.

The opening scene leaves you in no doubt as to the modern nature of this production. Traditional Shakespeare is turned on its head with the clever use of a minimalist scaffolding backdrop, edgy screen projections, occasional bursts of pulsating strobe lights accompanied by an original drum and base electronic soundtrack. The music is especially used to great effect to build a mesmerising spectacle full of tension and excitement.

Cleverly directed by Hal Chambers, the masculinity of Shakespeare’s language is preserved within a fast moving, head spinning maelstrom that parallels cleverly with many of the issues faced by Britain today with the rise of Nationalism in a country full of division and never-ending Brexit negotiations.

The attention to detail and high paced choreography sequences of the fight scenes bring a visceral realism to proceedings as the audience is drawn headlong into the battles of Harfleaur and Agincourt with Henry delivering his masterful rousing monologues as the frenzied noise of war rages around us.

The brilliant cast of eight use the entire space with infectious energy. The extensive use of lights and the clever utilisation of their state-of-the-art hydraulic lift see the performers fall and vanish into the abyss below the stage only to re-emerge through trap doors or running back down the theatre aisles. This provides the audience with a totally immersive “edge of the seat” experience that has you feeling a mixture of exhaustion and exhilaration by the end.

Aaron Sidwell portrays the charismatic Henry with a confident assurance that allows the audience to easily connect with the complexities of his character. He is wonderfully supported by Lauren Samuels as Katharine of France and the two share some quieter moments that help punctuate the high-velocity pace of the story.

Samuels’ English lessons as Katharine, with Jonathan Woolf as the Dauphin are incredibly funny and could easily slot into a 21st-century comedy sketch show. Her portrayal of Boy is heart-wrenching and underlines the versatility of this talented actress.

This production takes the audience on a roller coaster journey of emotions and whether or not Shakespeare is ‘your thing’, the Barn Theatre has put together a brilliantly clever production that will appeal to a wide-ranging audience.

Once again, the Barn has underlined its credentials as a cutting-edge venue with the bravery to push the boundaries and provide theatre entertainment of the highest calibre.

The Barn Theatre’s modern interpretation of Henry V is a masterpiece not to be missed – five stars.

For more information about Henry V, contact the Barn Theatre Box Office on 01285 648255 or visit the website at