Pupils have followed in the footsteps of their counterparts 100 years before in a special centenary performance of Shakespeare’s Henry V at the Bard’s very own school.
The boys of King Edward VI School in Stratford-upon-Avon staged the play at the Memorial Theatre in the town in 1913. All those taking part fought soon after in the First World War and with seven of them killed in action.
The Post reviewed the 1913 version and noted “the joy and pleasure attendant upon the beholding of a meritorious, one might truly say masterly, handling of a masterly play”.
Today’s pupils at the school attended by William Shakespeare in the 1570s, performed a sell-out version of the play on St Patrick’s Day in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Swan Theatre.
Henry Jennings, who played Pistol in the 1913 production, and his brother Herbert, who played the Earl of Salisbury, were among the seven cast members killed in The First World War.
Both are commemorated in the stained glass Jennings window, donated by the brothers’ family, in the school’s Memorial Library which features Henry V praying the night before the battle of Agincourt.
The 2013 performance also celebrated two school old boys, one past and one present.
A century ago the Memorial Theatre was graced by the young composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, who wrote the music especially for Henry V.
That music was only re-discovered in 2010 and so was heard again for the first time in 100 years.
And Shakespearean actor Tim Pigott-Smith, who has appeared in Doctor Who and James Bond film Quantum of Solace, played chorus. Perry Mills, director of the 2013 work, said: “There is a terrific sense of poignancy surrounding that original production.
“I am constantly drawn back to the image of those young boys captured at the time in an extraordinary series of photographs ‘playing at warriors’ and who a couple of years later were actual warriors in fields not all that far from the real Agincourt.
“It is not fanciful to think that those young men must have had memories of performing Henry V with their schoolmates playing around in their heads as they prepared for battle.
‘‘The metaphor ‘all the world’s a stage’ suddenly becomes concrete. And the throat tightens. The relationship between actor and audience is of course central to any theatrical performance and in this instance the dynamic was peculiarly acute.”
Raymond Meadows played Henry V in 1913 and became a captain in the Royal Warwicks.
After the war he read classics at Cambridge and became a successful merchant banker with Rothschild’s. He died in 1967.
Seven corporate sponsors – CPBigwood, Lodders Solicitors, College Cruisers, GlobalGathering, Nuffield Health, Robert Lunn & Lowth Solicitors and St Philips Chambers, raised nearly £2,000 for the production and individual patrons added more than £700.