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Roberts acknowledged that some people have been burned by badly performed Shakespeare and so what he tries to do is make it clear and interesting. "The best moment for me is when we have a young student come up after a show and say 'Thank you for translating Shakespeare into modern English. I finally understood it.' And we never do that. We never change the words."
Roberts last played Henry V about 12 years ago. "It was a much more youthful innocent king, sort of thrust into a situation and now I'm much more identifying with the side of Henry who was a battle-tested leader at the age of 16 at the battle of Shrewsbury," he says. "To me the play is actually from Henry's perspective about isolation. In his only speech to the audience, he talks about the great isolation and burden of being king how you are never able to please everyone, how you can never sleep at night. He's trying to do what had never been done before, to unite the kingdom.
"My main concern as director is to try to figure out what Shakespeare was really getting at and then get out of the way," Roberts says. The language used in this production will be rougher, more like what Shakespeare's audiences would have heard in their day, he says, then recites the "Once more into the breech dear friends" speech in what sounds like an Appalachian snarl. "We're trying to get some of the spirit of that rough-and-ready back into the play. I love my grandmother, but this is not my grandmother's Shakespeare," he says, laughing.
2540 Times Blvd.
Houston, TX 77005
Category: Performing Arts Venues
Region: Kirby-West U
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March 21-April 21, Main Street Theater-Rice Village, 2540 Times Boulevard . For information, call 713-524-6706 or visit mainstreettheater.com.
"Henry V is a great honor play but it's also about mud," Roberts says, adding that actually, it's about mud and technology at the Battle of Agincourt. "It was raining the night before and the French were in heavy armor. And when the French cavalry charged, they got stuck in the mud. And also because the English had the newest technology, they had the English longbow which had a much with greater range than the crossbow and could pierce armor. So when the French got stuck in the mud, the English longbow men basically picked them off like flies."
For seven years now, Roberts also has worked training business leaders and corporate executives from around the world using Henry V and other Shakespeare history plays.
"The same challenges that Henry goes through are not unknown to business leaders today," he says. "How do you unite your forces around a common cause, how do you deal with traitors, what do you do when vastly outnumbered and facing seemingly insurmountable odds."