One of the most disturbing aspects of contemporary warfare is the media’s insidious control over the way we perceive it. So suggests Jessica Bauman in Into the Hazard [Henry 5], her new adaptation of Shakespeare’s ode to nation-building through conquest—a production that attempts to stage today’s media-soaked experience of war.
While it’s a potent idea, Bauman’s execution doesn’t measure up. In the real world, mass media disorients us with its cacophony of competing voices. Here, videos—news clips, a reality-TV take on Princess Katherine’s English lesson—replace Shakespeare’s choral monologues, but they create plodding exposition rather than technological frenzy.
Bauman’s video elements also contradict her otherwise understated approach to Henry V. Her ensemble plays on a bare stage; those not performing watch from the sidelines. The trimmed-down script and spare direction, featuring an appropriately sophomoric Henry (Nick Dillenburg), are Bauman’s best achievements—revealing that, even without live video feed, Henry’s savvy manipulations of public perception are rife with contemporary parallels. Bauman’s title—a Shakespearean double entendre referring to both war and tennis—reminds us that our era doesn’t hold the monopoly on hiding violence behind euphemism.