Henry V and the Battle of Agincourt at Cusop Church and Cusop Castle
What a treat, had by all on the weekend of July16th and 17th 2016. Two days of warm dry weather, the sun shining down on Hay Theatre Company as they performed Henry V and The Battle of Agincourt at St Mary’s Church, Cusop. Together adults and children enjoyed the sword fighting workshop in the church yard, armor- making workshop inside the church and a picnic lunch donated by The Co-op in Hay , kindly prepared by Cusop Church Warden, Celia Cundale and volunteers, Heather and Cherry Keylock. Funded by Agincourt600 and Elmely Foundation Small grants the day was truly “caring and sharing”. The soldiers lunch was enjoyed by all participants under the beautiful and ancient yew trees dating back 1,800 years. Long bows originally made by the wood of the sacred yew, were displayed and demonstrated by expert David Cartwright. The longbowmen played a strategic part in defeating the French in The Battle of Agincourt .
The performance of Henry V, specially adapted and directed by Janine Sharp (Wilhemena Sharpspeare) was superb! It took the audience on a journey, beginning in the churchyard,into the church where the pews were full on both days. After 40 minutes the audience were cleverly transported onboard ship helped by lighting ( Paul Elkington) sound ( Johnny Cartwright) and seagulls on sticks (Sue Hodgetts) and a sail lowered from the rafters (Keith Hodgetts). Waving seagulls in the air they sailed out of the church ,across the sea to land in Calais. Urged on by The Chorus ( Malk Williams, also playing Henry V) and MC (Derek Addyman) to be weary and seasick, they were given swords and encouraged by their King to go… “ Once more unto the breach dear friends once more” and so they did, marching down the path to the beat of the drum onto the lane, where they met an Englishman (Johnny Cratwright), Irishman (Ben Pond), Welshman (Malk Williams) and Scotsman (Keith Hodgetts), arguing about who is the best at tunneling under the walls of the French town of Harfleurs. You really felt like you were there, marching on and into the field where the audience met Katherine Princess of France (Monica Rogowska and her maid Alice (Julia Elkington), sitting by a cattle trough, learning English, for the marriage alliance of Katherine and Henry.
The audience marched up onto the castle mound as their final destination. Divided into the French and the English encampments, downhearted and outnumbered by the French aristocracy, a superb rendition of the St Crispin’s Day speech stirred everyone to battle. The Battle of Agincourt commenced, fought by audience and actors alike, to a fun narrative poem. The French King (played regally by John Winter) and the Dauphin (by Sean Crawford) led their soldiers and half the crowd to their deaths by the longbows of Henry V's soldiers.
The message was made clear by the director, the portrait of war and its casualties, is a tragic rather than a victorious one. The Agincourt Carol was sung by The Village Quire, the beauty of which, juxtaposed the final tableaux of the victims of a war. A serious subject, topical, thought - provoking, yet made fun and understandable, and enjoyed by everyone of all ages and from all walks of life.