(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 9

Shakespeare’s play has an uncanny ability to reflect the spirit of the times: Laurence Olivier’s gung-ho 1944 film was worlds away from Nicholas Hytner’s sceptical revival in the year of the Iraq war.

Gregory Doran’s production, as part of a developing history cycle, takes a more classical approach, seeking out and exploring the play’s contradictions. A crucial key lies in the excellent chorus of Oliver Ford Davies. With his cardigan and red muffler, he is like a faintly testy schoolmaster forever urging us to use our imaginations: “Work, work your thoughts and therein see a siege,” he positively bellows before Harfleur, as if we have been caught slacking.


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