Sunday, March 11, 2007


Eric Griffiths, no doubt heeding my earlier grumble that no-one had covered this wonderful production, gave Pippo Delbono's Henry V a highly intelligent review in The Times Literary Supplement on March 9th.

"People are uplifted by the strangest things. Glum land girls in the 1940s, aching after a day pulling beets, and with little to look forward to but a powdered egg or passing GI sleek with brilliantine, were stirred to summon up their blood again by Laurence Olivier’s Technicolor Henry V. When Pippo Delbono learned in 1989 that he was HIV-positive, he took courage from Kenneth Branagh’s recently released film of the same play, in particular from the King’s speech on the eve of Agincourt with its bitter thoughts about how little “ceremony” can do for royalty on its sickbed, and from Henry’s bluff homily to the effect that “There is some soul of goodness in things evil / Would men observingly distil it out .......

Patches of verse have been lifted from the play and laid side by side to produce the theatrical equivalent of an AIDS memorial quilt. It’s touching, like memories of the nursery, and the audience in the Swan was quite roused. They may have had no notion of the sharp, autobiographical poignancy of the enterprise, which doesn’t shout at you from the stage and went unmentioned in the RSC’s publicity materials, though you wouldn’t need a queer theorist’s nostrils aflare for any scent of a subtext to begin to wonder if this procession of manly men on the verge of tears about their deceased buddies didn’t remind you of something. You might not have guessed the particular application, if Delbono, who stresses the interpenetration of art and life in his work, hadn’t chosen to bring out its relevance to his own case."


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