Henry V/Forum Theatre, Malvern

BEARING in mind the nation’s present preoccupations, it’s not hard to see similarities between the machinations of 15th century power struggles and the current Brexit quagmire.

Director Elizabeth Freestone sets out her stall from the outset – the premise that when it comes to things European, nothing has changed.

Whether it’s Harry of England tilting with the French king or Theresa May crossing metaphorical swords with Michel Barnier, only the methods are different.

For longbows and lance, read clipboards and carefully scripted speeches.

Henry V is by far the Bard of Avon’s most powerful play, the richness and intensity of the language easily outstripping all his other works.

And in the hands of the Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory theatre company, the result is truly electrifying.

Ben Hall as Henry charges ahead with banners flying and trumpets blasting. He storms every breach, gloriously delivering the immortal lines that have echoed across the world for the last 400 years.

Sometimes speaking in a whisper, but usually with a roar, this lion of Albion can’t wait to tear into the French and take what he believes rightfully belongs to him.

Ironically, a later confrontation with Heledd Gywnn’s wonderfully shrew-like Katharine will possibly prove to be an even greater battle.

Only the cool-headed Exeter (Alice Barclay) seems to have the situation weighed up, nevertheless uneasy as a dwindling English army becomes decimated by exhaustion and disease.

Alan Coveney is Henry’s opposite number across the Channel, and excels as a pinch-faced ruler confident that the English dogs will soon scurry back across the water with tails between legs.

Unfortunately for him, almost the entire French nobility are about to be wiped out in less than two hours on a muddy field called Agincourt.

Meanwhile, Joanne Howarth supplies the narrative like some Plantagenet Kate Adie reporting from a foreign field.

Henry V is nothing if not a parable of national resolve against all the odds. Maybe Theresa May should buy a ticket.

It runs until Saturday (October 27).

John Phillpott