The University of Winnipeg



UWinnipeg Theatre Season Opens With Intense Political Shakespeare

H5: The Life of King Henry the Fifth

WINNIPEG, MB – The University of Winnipeg’s Department of Theatre and Film opens its 2008/09 theatre season with a powerful, political revision of William Shakespeare’s Henry V called H5: The Life of King Henry the Fifth. The play, which runs from November 18 to 22, 2008 will be directed by faculty member Christopher Brauer, and performed by the Fourth-Year Honours Acting Style & Genre class, with technical support from the Department’s production students.

Written in 1599, this was the first play performed at Shakespeare’s new theatre, The Globe. In that year, England was involved in two bloody wars on the European mainland, and was being forced to commit to an “anti-insurgency” action in Ireland as well. This police action resulted in financial and military disaster, and led Queen Elizabeth to have her own General, Lord Essex, executed. Homeland security was the number-one thing on the minds of the English when H5 hit the stage.

H5: The Life of King Henry the Fifth is the story of the early years in the reign of one of England’s best loved monarchs. Prodded by the clergy and by his advisors, the young Henry V launches an invasion of France to assert his ancestral title to the French throne. Surviving an assassination plot from amongst his own nobles, he lays siege to the walled town of Harfleur, and from there travels to Agincourt where, despite being severely outnumbered, he wins his most famous victory. Along the way we are treated to some of Shakespeare’s best known and best loved speeches: “O for a muse of fire,” “Once more unto the breach dear friends,” and “St. Crispin’s Day.”

Is a just war possible?

“Traditionally, this play is treated as a sort of love letter to a great king, a real celebration of a good man going to war for good causes,” Brauer said. “But it’s really only the Chorus character who is so gung-ho. If you look at the scenes that come after the Chorus’ very positive speeches, they really undermine all the good stuff the Chorus is saying – they make the Chorus look like a really impressive spin doctor. So our production focuses on the debate that’s going on in the play, a debate about whether a ‘just war’ is possible, a debate about whether the ends truly do justify the means when it comes to war.”

The audience enters to find Winnipeg band The Mad Young Darlings rehearsing in an abandoned warehouse. Gradually, a group of actors and technicians arrive in the space to rehearse for their contemporary production of H5: The Life of King Henry the Fifth. But before the rehearsal can begin the company learns that their own country has just gone to war. The rehearsal then takes on an improvised, anarchic quality as the actors use Shakespeare’s text to work out their reactions to this war.

Professor Brauer’s direction is framed in scenery by Heather Arabsky and costumes by Rachel Berg, both students in the senior design program, and illuminated by alumnus Jason Robbins.

See the play – free

Performances are Tuesday, November 18 through Saturday, November 22 at 8:00 p.m. nightly, at the Gas Station Theatre, 445 River Avenue. Admission is free but reservations are recommended. Please call the 24-hour Reservation and Information Line at 204.786.9152, or visit The University of Winnipeg’s Department of Theatre and Film website at:

Based in its new home in the Canwest Centre for Theatre and Film at The University of Winnipeg, the Department of Theatre and Film offers areas of study in Acting, Design, Drama in Education, Filmmaking, Playwriting, and Production/Stage Management. The classes are small and the approach is practical. The faculty is comprised of highly respected and award-winning professionals who are experienced teachers and remain active in their disciplines, bringing relevant and up-to-date instruction to students.

Patty Hawkins, Department of Theatre and Film, The University of Winnipeg
P: 204.786.9955, E:

Christopher Brauer, Department of Theatre and Film, The University of Winnipeg
P: 204.786.9006, E: