York Shakespeare Project commemorates the 600th anniversary of Agincourt with an all-female production of Henry V

[Images by John Saunders]

York Shakespeare Project remembers both the Hundred Years War and the First World War by having the ‘Barnbow Lasses’ present Shakespeare’s Henry V.

The production is set in a munitions factory where the women’s enactment of Shakespeare’s most famous History play allows them to explore the meaning of war.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Featuring Claire Morley as King Henry, the all-female company is modelled on the Elizabethan tradition of a single gender ensemble.

As the male actors in Shakespeare’s own company adopted all of the roles – female or male – so too do ‘The Barnbow Lasses’.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The huge Barnbow factory near Leeds employed women and girls from all over Yorkshire, including York.

A job at Barnbow meant economic independence but with it came danger.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
An explosion in December 1916 destroyed one of the factory sheds, leaving 35 dead and many more severely injured.

As this production coincides with the 600th anniversary of Henry V’s victory at Agincourt (1415) and commemorations of the First World War War (1914-18), it is also an opportunity for York to remember its own rather forgotten ‘heroes’, the munitionettes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
“I want to produce an evocative and exciting piece of theatre,” says director Maggie Smales (pictured above), “which also recognises the sacrifices that women made.”

Established in 2001, York Shakespeare Project is committed to performing all of Shakespeare’s known plays over a period of 20 years.

Their most recent production, Timon of Athens, featured as part of the York International Shakespeare Festival, and they have also recently enjoyed sell-out shows of Othello and Twelfth Night at York Theatre Royal.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Their 28th production, Henry V is performed at Upstage Theatre, 41 Monkgate, York YO31 7PB.

It runs from Wednesday 21 October to Saturday 31 October 2015.

Go here to book tickets.

Shakespeare Magazine witnessed the 2015 Shakespeare Birthday Parade held on 25 April in the Bard’s Stratford-upon-Avon birthplace

1

The Air Training Corps Band led the parade through the streets of Stratford. The route was extended this year to incorporate Shakespeare’s birthplace on Henley Street – taking the parade from cradle to grave.

2
A staple part of the celebrations is the town’s William Shakespeare and his wife at the front of the walking parade.

3
The big birthday cake this year was themed around the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt, a battle which features in Shakespeare’s Henry V. The cake was decorated by local school children and artists.

4
Gregory Doran, Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, taking part in the walking parade to leave flowers at Shakespeare’s grave in Holy Trinity Church.

5
The annual handing over of the quill between Shakespeare and the head boy of King Edward’s School, which Shakespeare attended as a boy. This recent tradition was added to the parade at the suggestion of Gregory Doran, who felt it would symbolise that Shakespeare’s writing lives on.

6
The unfurling of the flags saw 451 gold and black balloons being released. Each balloon represented a year since Shakespeare’s birth.

7
There was plenty of entertainment around Stratford. At the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Keith Osborn read sonnets at the top of the viewing tower. We were treated to ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day’.

8
The view from the Royal Shakespeare Theatre tower, looking towards Holy Trinity Church.

9
There was street entertainment on every road. This was the Shakespeare Morris Dancers outside the town hall.

10
Holy Trinity Church: Shakespeare’s grave and monument beautifully adorned by all the floral tributes that were left from visitors around the world.