Tag Archives: Jack Reitman

Henry V


The Maltings Open Air Festival

Henry V

Henry V

The Maltings Open Air Festival

Reviewed – 15th August 2020



“the cast are masterful at multi-roling and eking out the comic potential”


Lockdown appears to be easing in many walks of life, but it is unfortunate that the theatre world, in particular, is still struggling to get back on its feet. The government announcement allowing indoor events is very welcome although there is still a fair bit of ground to cover. In the meantime, open-air theatre is stealing the spotlight, and a very fine example of this is the Maltings Open Air Theatre Festival, set in the unique Roman Theatre of Verulamium just on the edge of St Albans. As part of the festival, Shakespeare’s “Henry V” is running in rep throughout August.

Whilst our theatres are nursing their wounds from the battle against the pandemic, outdoor theatre has another foe, too, in the English weather; and “Henry V” opened just as the heavens did. But mercifully the downpours showed some restraint for the crucial ninety minutes and rain didn’t stop play: the show must go on, and the true spirit of the cast thrives, matching the trumpet calls that herald Shakespeare’s historical text.

“Henry V” is an ambitious play. It is difficult to represent the great battles of Harfleur and, more importantly, of Agincourt. It relies heavily on the collective imagination of the audience, and here it is aided too by the individual imagination of director, Matthew Parker. Embracing the current restrictions, Parker presents the play as a rehearsal for a school production. The teachers and students have gathered together in the summer holidays to rework their production of “Henry V” that was presumably curtailed earlier in the school year. They have to alter the staging to make it socially distant and safe. Costumes can only be touched by the actor wearing them and no-one can share a prop – each cast member assigned different coloured tape to enforce this. The action is interrupted whenever actors get too close to each other. It is a clever way if incorporating the regulations into the performance itself.

The cast brilliantly capture the atmosphere of the classroom in recess where familiarity and authority have license to flirt with one another. The flipside, however, is that one is drawn to these characters more than to the Shakespearian characters they are portraying, and Shakespeare’s text plays second fiddle. The complexities of the subject, and the contrasting views on patriotism and warfare, do get swept aside by the occasional over-projection and caricature. Nevertheless, the cast are masterful at multi-roling and eking out the comic potential. Felipe Pacheco and James Keningale stand out, playing seven or so characters between them; and Rachel Fenwick shines as the French King’s daughter, Katherine, especially during the iconic scene in which she attempts to improve her English.

But all in all, it is an ensemble piece that is refreshingly pacey and fizzes with energy. The electricity that seems to crackle form the stage is not just the early signs of the impending thunderstorm. The setting is stunning: an excavated Roman amphitheatre that is nearly two thousand years old. For over a millennia it was buried, but it lives to see the light of day. A fitting backdrop for one of the first productions to emerge since lockdown. The spirit of theatre cannot be dampened – by an invisible enemy nor by the English weather, and this feisty production of Henry V is testament to that spirit.



Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Laura Harling


Henry V

The Maltings Open Air Festival until 31st August


Last ten shows reviewed by Jonathan:
Musik | ★★★★ | Leicester Square Theatre | February 2020
Nearly Human | ★★★ | The Vaults | February 2020
Tell It Slant | ★★★ | Hope Theatre | February 2020
The Importance Of Being Earnest | ★★★½ | The Turbine Theatre | February 2020
Closed Lands | ★★★ | The Vaults | March 2020
Max Raabe & Palast Orchester | ★★★★★ | Cadogan Hall | March 2020
The Kite Runner | ★★★★ | Richmond Theatre | March 2020
The Last Five Years | ★★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | March 2020
A Separate Peace | ★★★★ | Online | May 2020
The Understudy | ★★★★ | Online | May 2020


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Thrill Me



The Hope Theatre



Thrill Me

“you find yourself simultaneously appalled and captivated by these two characters”


It’s Chicago in 1924 and two school friends are reunited. Nathan Leopold (Bart Lambert) is obsessively in love with Richard Loeb (Jack Reitman) and wants to resume their previous affair, but Richard has changed. Inspired and seemingly possessed by the controversial writings of German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, he exploits Nathan’s devotion in return for making him an accomplice in a series of crimes. Having signed a contract in blood, their pursuit of the ‘Ubermensch’ ideal inevitably leads the pair beyond arson and petty burglary and into more disturbing and challenging transgressions. They gain notoriety as the Thrill Killers – at a considerable cost…

Directed by Matthew Parker, the Hope Theatre’s production of Stephen Dolginoff’s 2003 true-crime musical is stunning. Narrated in flashbacks during a parole hearing 34 years later, it maintains an incredibly high level of drama – considerably aided by the sensitive and dynamic piano playing of musical director Tim Shaw. It helps that the source material – both the script and songwriting – is so consistently strong. When the dialogue stops and the singing begins in lesser musicals, it can often seem like filler. In Thrill Me, every song carries the narrative forwards and sharpens the focus on the personalities and motivations of the two men. Lambert and Reitman are note-perfect throughout – quite some feat given the sheer number of lines and lyrics they have to deliver across the eighty-minute performance.

There are a couple of fairly major plot twists, which means that the show continues to surprise you just when you think you’ve worked out how it will unfold. There’s real intensity conveyed, both in the vividness of Nathan’s feelings for the man he worships and in Richard’s fixation on amoral self-transformation.

Subtle lighting helps to build the atmosphere, particularly in the scene in which they set an abandoned warehouse ablaze – a perfect visual metaphor of their fiery passions. Creative use is also made of recorded voices (those of Dewi Hughes and Bryan Pilkington) and sound effects, providing a three-dimensional framework that instils the action with even more realism.

The play examines the psychology of egos, ethics and manipulative behaviour as well as tackling bigger themes of society and individualism. Primarily, it asks the question: what would you do for love? As it explores those extremes you find yourself simultaneously appalled and captivated by these two characters, whose escalating predicament is all the more chilling for being based on a true story.


Reviewed by Stephen Fall

Reviewed – 4th April 2019

Photography by lhphotoshots


Thrill Me: The Leopold and Loeb Story

Hope Theatre until 20th April


Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Fat Jewels | ★★★★★ | July 2018
Medicine | ★★★ | August 2018
The Dog / The Cat | ★★★★★ | September 2018
The Lesson | ★★★★ | September 2018
Jericho’s Rose | ★★★½ | October 2018
Gilded Butterflies | ★★ | November 2018
Head-rot Holiday | ★★★★ | November 2018
Alternativity | ★★★★ | December 2018
In Conversation With Graham Norton | ★★★ | January 2019
The Ruffian On The Stair | ★★★★ | January 2019


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