Over three days I watched the landscape that would form Henry V taking shape; the prince not born to be King but thrown into it by his father's deposing of Richard II. His petulant years as the party prince rebelling against this unexpected, unlooked for responsibility, rebelling and yet not quite relinquishing the need to make his father proud. It is an inner battle fought through Henry IV parts 1 and 2 and at the beginning of Henry V we see the new King (Alex Hassell) resolved to his new found responsibility, determined if a little scared and a little nervous.
This final play in the tetralogy watched back to back, is his journey from infamous youth to warrior and clever politician. When Henry successfully puts down a plot to murder him you see him grow a little in confidence. He needs it for the path ahead when he has to play politics with the French King and make life and death decisions for his former friends and for 1,000 of soldiers.
Before the play begins the stage is lit so that you can see all the backstage areas, the props and bits of sets to be used later. You hear the actors being called to the stage. It is a contemporary start to a history play and yet it is how Shakespeare intended, a way of getting the audience to use their imagination for the trips to France and epic battles that are to come.
Oliver Ford Davis in casual 21st Century clothes - a cardie and scarf - has a slightly wry tone to his lines as Chorus which serve to move the action forward, set the scene and sometimes develop the drama.
The humour comes once again from the common people and the stereotypical portrayal of Welsh, Irish and Scots soldiers - the latter being incomprehensible. In the end it is Henry's wooing of the French princess that shows his maturity while retaining that youthful playfulness we've come to love and you can't help but smile. He did it; it was a funny, emotional and sometimes difficult journey but he became a worthy King. Well done Alex and well done the RSC, it's been epic.
Henry V gets five stars from me, it is approximately three hours long with an interval and runs in rep at the Barbican until Jan 23 before going on a world tour.