20 July 2023
The Actors’ Church
4.0 out of 5.0 stars
The Actors’ Church is currently hosting a season of Theatre In The Garden, and I got to see their short run of Rabble Theatre’s Henry I, written by Beth Flintoff, in this beautiful space.
The youngest son of William the Conqueror, Henry does not inherit land when his father dies. His two older brothers, crowned kings of Normandy and England, fight for power while Henry has to choose between loyalties. When his luck turns and he gains the crown of England as well as a perfectly matched wife, he feels invincible, anointed by god, but a curse that has been haunting him returns to topple his empire. How far will Henry I go to protect his reign?
A deeply researched play, written in a modernised Shakespearean style, brought to life by an exceedingly talented troupe of actors. The simple stage did not impede the actor’s ability to draw up a variety of locations leading through the life of Henry from fighting in Normandy to his tragic end.
There was so much energy on stage, reverberating through the church hall and easily holding the audience’s attention. Flintoffs skill for writing fully formed women characters with agency and rich personalities struck me as stand-out once again. Despite the historical setting in which women usually did not have much agency over their lives at all, she managed to focus in on Henry’s wife, sister, and daughter to explore their stories alongside the king’s.
Filled with sword fighting, power struggles, intrigue, betrayal, and revenge, Henry I is a powerful historical play with wit and charm galore. If you get a chance to catch this production, get yourself a ticket and enjoy the ride!