Two recent productions of Henry V neatly illustrate the difference between British and American theater. The first, at the Royal National Theatre, has been a hot ticket in London all summer. Staged by the National’s new director, Nicholas Hytner, it’s played on the company’s Olivier stage, named for the most famous Henry of all, whose gallant screen version rallied the home front during the Second World War. Henry V is a play that never drops out of sight but real war always gives it an extra kick. Forty years after Olivier stirred the blood, Michael Bogdanov co-opted Shakespeare for a savage indictment of Thatcher’s Falklands War. Savage indictments of Thatcher’s Falklands War were ten a penny in the mid-Eighties, but at least hijacking Shakespeare ensured you got some classier lines.

Two decades on,...


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