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.

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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’.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.