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Shakespeare/Nation/NZ - Paper for: SAA 2021: Henry V Seminar

Theatre/Nation/NZ Mark Houlahan University of Waikato SAA 2021: Henry V Seminar Since its first performances at the Globe in Southwark in 1559, audiences have been drawn to Henry V’s irresistible use of tropes of theatre and nation. Those tropes have been used at times not just as generic meta-theatre but also to celebrate the specific theatre in which the play was staged. That was clearly the case in 1599. In 1997, when Shakespeare’s Globe premiered with its own, much discussed version of Henry V, those tropes came to life again. Again this was London come to life on stage. Again the stage was shiny with wood, from the Thane of Cawdor’s estate. Yet, as the play travels the Globe (as when for example Propeller Theatre took their all-male Henry V around the globe nearly ten year ago) what sense can we make of these English theatre/nation tropes? Can the play speak as far from London as Aotearoa/New Zealand? The prime objective of my paper is to answer this question by describing a specific production in 1972, which launched the James Hay Theatre in the Christchurch Town Hall a noted postmodern, world class performance venue. This was directed by Ngaio Marsh, famous as one of the Queens of Crime fiction and who in New Zealand directed high quality Shakespeares for several decades. The production, using 60 actors and featuring professional actors Marsh had trained who returned from England to perform , was a pinnacle of her production style . Marsh’s meticulously prepared promptbooks, housed in the National Library of New Zealand, show every cut and in some scenes, every move sketched by Marsh in advance. The Marsh archives also document reviewers reactions and recollections from the company. None of these have been digitised, though Marsh’s script for her 1943 modern dress Hamlet (the first such performance in New Zealand) has recently been published. My paper will show how useful these materials might be to calibrate the resonance of theatre and nation in the play. Reading List: Agee, James. “Laurence Olivier’s Henry V.” Shakespeare in America: An Anthology from the Revolution to Now, edited by James Shapiro, Library of America, 2014, pp. 459-474. [wonderful analysis of the film, and really attentive to culture/nation contexts.] Flaherty, Kate. “Lest We Remember: Henry V and the Play of Commemorative Rhetoric on the Australian Stage.” Antipodal Shakespeare:Remembering and Forgetting in Britain, Australia and New Zealand, 1916-2016, edited by Gordon McMullan and Philip Mead, Bloomsbury, 2018, pp. 145–73.
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