Those of you who keep a keen eye on theatre reviews will have seen Propeller’s name crop up fairly frequently over the past few years. Directed by Ed Hall, this all-male Shakespeare Company is really making a name for itself by providing really visceral, exciting productions of Shakespeare’s work. When they approached me to see if the V&A would like to host their ‘Pocket’ Henry V on 1 October, I was happy to say yes.
This event is out of the ordinary for our Performing Arts programme. I mainly programme events and activities for Secondary schools, including set, costume, and make-up design, as well as screenings from the National Video Archive of Performance. (Did you know that the V&A has a theatre collection? We actually look after the national collection of performing arts material for the UK, covering all live aspects from stand-up comedy to theatre to puppets to opera.)
We do get approached by companies fairly frequently who would like to stage shows at the V&A and, whilst it would be great to accommodate them all, a show needs to have a clear connection with our collections and be inspired by them in some way.
We have a variety of Shakespeare-related objects on display in the Theatre and Performance galleries, including some iconic objects related to Henry V. We’ve got a fabulous oil painting of Richard Burton as he played the lead role in 1955/6 at the Old Vic, as well as the costume from the production itself, designed by Tanya Moiseiwitsch. Because of these connections we felt we could offer students a rich experience of the show, coupled with talks by curators and from theatre company members about the play and the various ways it has been produced over the years.
Propeller say they are ‘very excited to be performing their pocket-sized production at the V&A’. The play involves six actors and three technicians who have distilled the full-length version of ‘Henry V’ into a 60-minute production. They’ve taken just 10 days to rehearse before starting their tour to 20 schools and small theatres, alongside their performance at the museum.
The 1 October performance is sold out but it could be the start of a very good partnership. If you’d like more information about upcoming programmes for schools and colleges, sign up for our newsletter. You can also keep up with Propeller’s current shows and activities by visiting their website and blog.