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The all-male Propeller theatre company bring their unique brand of Shakespeare to Hampstead, writes Rosy Moorhead
London Calling by The Clash, ageing Lothario pop stars and soldiers in balaclavas and army fatigues are not things you would normally associate with a Shakespeare play but they are exactly what you’ll get in a Propeller version of one. And the hugely popular all-male theatre company are bringing their double-bill of Henry V and The Winter’s Tale to the Hampstead Theatre next month, as part of their ten-month world tour.
“The reception we’ve had in China, Australia and New Zealand has been amazing,” says Dominic Thorburn, from Highgate, who plays Westmorland, the Governor of Harfleur and Monsieur Le Fer in Henry V and the First Lord of Scilia and Cleomenes in The Winter’s Tale.
Propeller have been reimagining Shakespeare’s works in modern settings for more than 15 years, under the directorship of Edward Hall, the son of Peter Hall, founder of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and half-brother of actor Rebecca Hall. Edward is also the artistic director at the Hampstead Theatre.
Henry V takes us from the corridors of Westminster to the fields of France, while The Winter’s Tale is set in both a made-up modern-day Italy and a West Country harvest fair that few might recognise as the Bohemia from the original.
“It’s been a challenge learning all the different parts in the two plays,” admits Dominic, the 23-year-old baby of the company. “And we all know each other’s parts because we have to cover for each other, so we all know the play intimately. We go to the pub after rehearsals and come up with something and the next day go back in and tell Edward that it’s going in. That’s how London Calling ended up being in Henry, a little flash in a scene change. That’s the bit when all the school kids wake up!”
Dominic saw Propeller performing The Winter’s Tale in its original run in 2005. “They were just electric,” he says. “There’s something about touring with an all-male company, it’s brilliant, really easy-going although we share these incredibly intense experiences. It’s like being in a really camp army.”
The Winter’s Tale is at Hampstead Theatre, Eton Avenue, Swiss Cottage from Tuesday, July 3 until Saturday, July 21 at 7.30pm with matinees on Saturdays at 2pm and also on Wednesday, July 18. Henry V is at Hampstead Theatre from Thursday, July 5 until Saturday, July 21 at 7.30pm, with matinees at 2pm on Wednesday, July 11 and Saturday, July 21. Details: 020 7722 9301, www.hampsteadtheatre.com