Tag Archives: Paula Gilmour

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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Serve Cold – 2 Stars


Serve Cold

Katzpace Studio Theatre

Reviewed – 19th August 2018


“The overall concept is wonderfully imaginative and certainly has the potential to be great, but right now feels like it is a couple of steps behind achieving this”


A lot can happen in one night. However, I don’t think any of us can say we have ever had one as eventful as the two protagonists in new play Serve Cold experience. Set in the bleak shadows of the early hours, this dark Scottish comedy, reveals the unthinkable that can go on behind closed doors.

One night. Two women. The bank of Glasgow’s River Clyde. A chance meeting. Or so it seems… Grace (Anna Marie Burslem), a prostitute with a heart of gold, thinks she’s found an unlikely kindred spirit in Joy (Paula Gilmour), but as the night unfolds, there is more to her new middle-class friend that meets the eye. As both women’s worlds collide they endeavour to help the other out of their difficult, or at times, bizarre, situations, testing just how far they will go to achieve the revenge they so desire to finally feel free.

The dark comic dialogue created by Mark MacNicol certainly gives a nod to the style of work Martin McDonagh has cultivated over the years for stage and screen, similarly capturing the hilarity of twisted scenarios and finding humour in the murkier elements of human behaviour. MacNicol certainly has some disturbingly funny one-liners. As far-fetched and exaggerated as the black-comedy genre can be, Serve Cold still lacks moments of needed believability, which makes the performance less credible (for example, the way in which Grace has immediate trust in Joy). With the play coming in at under an hour, certain scenes feel rushed and not given enough time for character motivations or plot lines to be fleshed out further.

Burslem and Gilmour as Grace and Joy offer sufficiently solid performances, proving an instinctive sense of comic timing, but likewise to the script, there is definite room for finessing their roles. Finding some nuanced qualities in order to present more complex, multifaceted characters.

It is definitely refreshing to see an all-female cast dealing with such darkly humorous, perverse material – a genre that usually is dominated by male characters. The overall concept of Serve Cold is wonderfully imaginative and certainly has the potential to be great, but right now feels like it is a couple of steps behind achieving this. A promising attempt at exploring the dark depths humanity can sink to in desperation.


Reviewed by Phoebe Cole



Katzpace Studio Theatre



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