Cry God for Harry, England and St George! by Mulberry Theatre Company

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Given the fact that Henry V plays such an important part in our show, team Greyhounds was excited to see that another production at the Fringe was using Shakespeare’s play to create their own story.

Rather than the 1940’s home front, Mulberry Theatre Company took us to East London, where we meet a group of teenage girls who are attempting to stage their own production of Henry V. However, they initially struggle to relate to the play as it’s about a load of white men in a situation seemingly very far removed from their own. This in itself raises the issue of diversity (or lack thereof) in the stories that are told in theatre and the actors who get to tell them. The key turning point in the play comes when the cast – along with many other Muslims in the country – receive an anonymous letter, declaring April 3rd as ‘Punish a Muslim Day’, thereby inciting people to commit violent crimes against Muslim people and communities.

Sadly, this letter was not a fictional dramatic device made up for the purposes of the play, but was actually a real letter that was widely circulated across the UK earlier this year. It was a very poignant and uncomfortable reminder that Islamophobia is still rife in our country, and that it is all of our responsibility to stand up for, and alongside, Muslim communities. I thought the actors handled this sensitive issue with great maturity, showing a range of responses from angry defiance to fear, raising some really thought provoking questions about what it means to be British which tied in well with the Shakespeare.

Though the subject matter was serious, there were some really lovely and inventive moments in the play to enjoy. I was struck by the set when I first walked in the venue, which effectively gave the impression of a community centre and was used well by the performers throughout. Technical aspects of the play were also executed well, such as when the girls were reading comments about their production of Henry V (both supportive and abusive) and scrolling comment feeds were projected onto their bodies. There was also a lovely moment with a skull, suit of armour, sword and crown – I don’t want to give too much away, but it was a surprising and creative use of what I had previously just thought of as a nice bit of set-dressing!

All in all, Cry God for Harry, England and St George! was very impressive for an entirely student-led production and these young people should be commended for what they have achieved with this show.

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