“We are weeping into the grass”, confesses Dugald Bruce-Lockhart, who plays the title role in Henry V when the all-male company Propeller return to Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre from November 9 to 12 and the Theatre Royal Brighton from November 15-19.
“We are being trained by the British military fitness team, and they are putting us through all sorts of things that I haven’t been through since school!”
Is it really necessary?
“It’s as much about company bonding as anything,” says Dugald. “It’s about team spirit. There are a few of us in the company that have known each other for 15 years. We have bonded well with the company in something like 22 different countries on our tours, but there are also a few people who are new to it all.
“It’s a show that gives you fitness once you do it, but it’s very good to have that fitness from the start - but particularly for the bonding, it’s great for us all to be living and breathing it.
“I have had great fun reading various history books about Henry and different approaches to the play and how different people see it. The only thing we have not done is play it as an out-and-out jingoistic sword-rattling ‘Here come the English’ type play. There is something more double-edged about it.
“Henry was a fantastic leader. He was also quite ruthless. There were overtones of Holy Wars and zealotism, and it’s all in the text to be seen. We could be telling the story of this incredibly-inspiring leader, but along the way a lot of people lose their humanity, including Henry himself in some ways. He talks to God throughout the play. He believes himself to be God’s messenger. He is determined that England would see him as chosen by God and that God has willed it so. That fanaticism is in the play.
“But he has this Hamletian speech where he talks to God and he talks to the audience about the problems of being King and about the problems of leadership, that when you strip away the crown it’s about how you cope with being a human being. He is not invincible. He is very vulnerable. And that’s what we are trying to bring out.”