Monday, 28 April 2014

Power to the people…

I have already suggested how the residents of Tysoe could make concrete the sustainability we place at the heart of our response to Gladman’s rapacious development proposals: by placing a “wind-turbine, or two, on Tysoe Hill… generating profit for its residents, as well as power”. And, although this may have sounded somewhat tongue-in-cheek, at the time – especially considering how conservative (both small and large ‘c’) we appear as a village – I was actually utterly serious.

We cannot continue our lazy ways of driving our children to school; or arriving at village meetings by car; or nipping down to Bart’s for a loaf of bread in our 4x4s, when all of our local amenities are central, and easily accessible on foot even to those, like me, who walk in pain, and with a stick; and when the three hamlets – from Tysoe Manor to Lane End Farm – are less than two miles from end-to-end (and that’s using the roads; not cutting corners with our frequent footpaths, or as the numerous crows fly…). It is often, therefore, refreshing – and one of the advantages of being at the bottom of the Edge Hills – to see so many villagers cycling to and fro: even though our local roads are not the most accommodating for those on two wheels; and it is easy to feel trapped between rushing motorists, the larger-than-apparently-needed local bus, and our many (and often deep) potholes and ragged, infrequently-maintained road edges.

We must practise what we preach on a larger scale, though; and, although I understand some people’s aversion to the change represented by the incursion of wind-turbines (sadly, frequently accompanied by naked nimbyism; and not helped by David Cameron’s thoughtless appeasement of climate-change deniers and voters defecting to those “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists” in the Ukip camp), I, personally, find them rather beautiful and graceful: modern, mobile sculptures bestriding our landscape even more elegantly than the “iron men” that were originally designed in the 1920s.

As we have so gotten used to pylons, and as we so adore the few windmills remaining from our water-pumping and flour-producing (and occasionally bone-grinding) agricultural and industrial heritage, I cannot see why, eventually, we would not grow to admire – or just forget or ignore their presence… – what will surely become a fundamental and necessary safeguard for the future of the human race (and the planet, of course). As I say, it is the “change represented” I believe that causes repulsion more than the design itself, though; and it will be interesting – as they are adopted more widely – to see what reactions will be provoked by the modern replacements for supporting overground electricity transmission. I wonder if people will then start professing their adoration for the suddenly historical (and therefore belonging to our “olden days”), latticed giants: which are, supposedly, equally as abhorred, currently (if you’ll excuse the pun), as the modern bladed replacements for stocks and sails.

Before I forget, does anyone know what is happening to ‘our’ windmill?

As now – although for divergent reasons – the windmill was also at the centre of the village’s identity in Joseph Ashby’s time; as well as playing a key rôle in its economy:

…sometimes as he saw the miller struggling up the hill, getting daily now more short of breath, the latter would seem for a moment a Sisyphean symbol for the endless struggle of life.

For the old man himself his mill was a symbol…. “My mill ’ll lose its sails one o’ these days, like the ships, but the tower ’ll last ’undreds of years; wind nor wet can’t get a hold on it. As one wind wets,” he said as though reflecting on the wide world, “another dries.”

…and it this economic – as well as community-enhancing – rôle I would want villagers to think about and discuss before rejecting something just on the grounds that they don’t like the look of it (especially as this is one way, in our control, to help prevent the power-cuts that, we are told, may become even more prevalent).

Not all of us who live here are rich, or can afford to absorb the high costs associated with oil-fuelled central-heating; and many would therefore benefit from the return an investment in ‘alternative’ power could provide – as well as the parallel reduction in their power and heating bills. (The number of solar electricity and water-heating panels visible in the village testifies to this, already – even if the majority of them, currently, appear to be attached to social housing.)

With the proposed advent of peer-to-peer ISAs, next year: which could provide a tax-free way of funding “community-owned renewable energy schemes” – such as those at Findhorn, and, more locally, at Watchfield – we would be one small step closer to living in the world we say we want for our children:

International and national bodies have set out broad principles of sustainable development. Resolution 42/187 of the United Nations General Assembly defined sustainable development as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The UK Sustainable Development Strategy Securing the Future set out five ‘guiding principles’ of sustainable development: living within the planet’s environmental limits; ensuring a strong, healthy and just society; achieving a sustainable economy; promoting good governance; and using sound science responsibly.

The bid by Ovo Energy “to boost local power generation”, announced today, would also help us make our giant leap into the future:

Ovo has invested in systems that can easily be scaled up to give community groups, local authorities and housing associations the tools they need to run a utility business, including customer service, billing and power generation. The company, through its Ovo Communities division, will also offer smart metering, power purchasing and energy efficiency installations.

A recent YouGov survey showed that three times more people believed they would get a fairer deal from a community-based energy supplier than a large company answerable to City shareholders.

The community model is already used in mainland Europe, especially in Germany, where more than half of electricity and gas is provided by local municipalities or other community organisations.

If we can grow our own fruit and veg, surely we can start to think about generating our own electricity, as another move, in Tysoe’s history, towards community cohesiveness and self-sufficiency?

In [the] 1880s Joseph [Ashby] made contact again with Lord William Compton; Lord William was at the time residing at Castle Ashby in Northamptonshire, and Joseph working nearby. Joseph had “stood in the road, waylaying his carriage. He met with recognition and welcome; an interview was arranged”. He persuaded Lord William (now a Liberal MP) to let a farm to the Tysoe Allotments Association for division into allotments and small-holdings, himself becoming one of the first tenants.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

My submission to the Planning Inspectorate…

I know that others are capable of addressing this inquiry more objectively. This, however, is a personal statement: that is, therefore, slightly more subjective. However, I think it is important that those making the final decision regarding this proposed development understand why Tysoe is so deeply valued and loved (and therefore why so many residents have objected vehemently to this proposal); what it feels like to live here; and why it should be protected from this mass onslaught of unsuitable and unsustainable development.

I have only lived in Tysoe for a few years, but have become so attached to the place, its people, spirit, identity and community, that I now write a blog, online, as The Bard of Tysoe – covering many aspects of village (and local) life, in an attempt to capture the unique spirit of the place. It is three of those “many aspects” that I would like to address here:
  1. its personal attachment (i.e. the attraction of the village to both incomers and long-time residents);
  2. the threats the cohesion of this community faces, were it to expand rapidly, rather than continue evolving, as it has done for centuries; and
  3. the total lack of sustainability such an expansion would force on the village and its heritage.
Before I continue, though, I must stress that I – along with all the other villagers I have spoken to – would not want to deprive others of living in this wonderful place. We know that we have to grow. It is just that the proposed development is too large, too sudden, too concentrated; would remove a crucial part of our heritage; and would be damaging for future generations, because of the lack of regard it has for the negative impact it will have on the earth we live on.

About three-and-a-half years ago – on our way to somewhere-else – our car broke down in Stratford-upon-Avon. Whilst the car was being repaired, we wandered into town, and spotted a picture of the house we now live in, in the window of an estate agent. Objectively, there is little that is remarkable about our home. Admittedly, for a building of its age, it has a bit of character – but the garden is smaller than we would have liked; and it doesn’t have a garage. One thing it does have going for it, though, is that it is in Tysoe.

Having lived in a small village, before, I knew how important the post office and shop would be; how fundamental it is that there is a pub, a village hall, a doctors’ surgery; how you soon get to know your neighbours – and trust them. What I hadn’t expected was the amazing strength and sense of identity and community the three villages that make up Tysoe jointly possess – something that continues to become more apparent (and amaze) with each passing day.

The campaign to fight this proposed development of eighty houses on Oxhill Road – which started last September – typifies this; and I must admit to being overwhelmed by the sense of purpose, unity and duty that drives those motivated to ‘do something about it’. It seems I am not the only one who finds this place so very special.

For health reasons, I spend as much time as I can walking – whether it be by Shakespeare’s Avon; or through his supposed poaching ground of Charlecote. But, whatever the undoubted attractions of those places, I prefer just to wander around the local byways – maybe up to the windmill; to Upton House; or across the fields to Oxhill. But I am at my most content just sitting in the churchyard, knowing this is my village – and that this is where I will stay. To paraphrase Touchstone, in As You Like It – “When I am at home, I am in a better place.”

When I write my blog, I keep coming back to two words: “community” and “identity”. They (like sustainability – which I will talk about in a moment…) can be hard to define; yet are, at the same time, utterly recognizable…. But my largest worry at the moment is that the village’s community and allied identity will be unsustainable in the face of the onslaught of such an overwhelming, and dense, addition to the local built environment (and probably in a style more suited to the urban than the rural), as well as the consequent huge population increase (again, probably more suited to the urban than the rural).

Every time I pass, or walk through, that field on Oxhill Road, therefore, I cannot help but imagine the huge carbuncle that would result from this development: a terrible scar being opened in the ancient earth; followed by horrendous ‘surgery’ – taking place over two or three years – polluting the village with noise, dirt, congestion, and perpetual, unsustainable, damage.

The proposal is utterly disproportionate in scale; utterly unsuitable in design and density; and would increase the number of houses in Middle and Upper Tysoe by over 20%; and the population by around 30%… – causing undue harm to the local landscape, its important environmental and historical assets, and the people who live here: now, and in the future.

In a council district where a sizable proportion of the houses are holiday lets and bed-and-breakfasts – and where the average house price is amongst the most expensive in the region – it seems ludicrous, to me, to build such a concentration of houses that will be unaffordable to those who truly want and need to live here (for example, our children…); and so far away from any centres of employment – especially as Tysoe is served poorly by public transport. There are also over one thousand empty houses in Stratford District that could contribute to the council’s five-year housing supply – reducing the perceived need to build on valuable agricultural land.

Because of all this, I have a feeling that this ‘fourth Tysoe’ would never truly integrate with the rest of the village – not because we are unwelcoming: after my short time here, I feel a true part of the community (although the new residents would soon become aware of our fight – which they would then, of course, perceive was against them…) – but because it will not have evolved from what already exists. It would not be a true, integrated part of the village – even though directly connected – but stuck on badly: like some young child’s blindfolded attempt at pinning the tail on the donkey. It is completely without context and suitability.

It would, however – whilst imposing its lack of sustainability on all of us – rely on its connection with the rest of the village (its ‘better half’) for its infrastructure and services; its prosperity and survival (although I do not believe it would contribute much to the local economy…) – even though it had caused the village such irreparable harm.

In contrast, fifty to seventy-five houses being developed over the next seventeen years – as envisaged in Stratford District Council’s draft Core Strategy – will be more manageable; and will – with Tysoe’s Neighbourhood Plan in place – build sensibly and meaningfully on the way the village has grown, over the centuries, with just a few new houses appearing every year.

As we keep being told:

At the heart of the National Planning Policy Framework is a presumption in favour of sustainable development, which should be seen as a golden thread running through both plan-making and decision-taking.

What people seem to gloss over, though, is an understanding of that word “sustainable”; and, in my experience, for many, sustainability can be somewhat difficult to describe.

However, the dictionary defines it as…

…that which is capable of being sustained [which is a little circular in its reasoning]; and, in ecology, the amount or degree to which the earth’s resources may be exploited without damage to the environment.

In a way, both of these aspects are important when it comes to assessing how a new, large housing development will affect the village – which is why they are (when read carefully, and understood properly) at the heart of the major legislative requirements for development in this country.

Using this definition, there are immediate and obvious grounds for refusing Gladman’s proposals:
  1. The council’s draft Core Strategy states that developments should cause no significant increase in traffic on rural roads: and yet a sudden influx of eighty households will mean that most of those will work outside the parish; which, in turn, means a large increase in commuting and service traffic – through both Oxhill and Tysoe. Anyone who uses these roads will tell you that they are narrow and unsafe, and are already blocked at peak times. This increase in the number of cars will not only affect existing traffic – which includes a large number of agricultural vehicles, crucial to the local economy – but cyclists, horse-riders, and pedestrians: including parents and small children on their way to and from Tysoe Primary School and Tysoe Pre-School.

  2. The village’s surgery is already at full capacity: and, therefore, there would be no healthcare facilities for the large number of incoming residents.

  3. As is well-known, local sewage and surface water management facilities are already over-capacity; and the part of Tysoe under consideration – like much of the village – is already subject to frequent flooding.

  4. Not only will the new houses be visible from the Edgehill escarpment – which is part of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty bordering the village – but it will form a major incursion across the village boundary into the countryside – in contravention of the council’s Core Strategy policy: which states that any development proposals should avoid such high-quality land as the ridge-and-furrow field the development will eradicate: land that is of ecological and archaeological value, locally and nationally.

It is not hard to spot, as you wander around the parish, that Tysoe is blessed with a relatively large number of remaining ridge-and-furrow fields. However, there is only one field that is still directly attached to Tysoe Manor – itself a Grade II* listed building… – and that is the field currently under threat.

Why is this important?

Well, in the Middle Ages, this field would almost certainly have been owned by the lord of Tysoe Manor; and farmed by his peasant tenants, using the open field system. Each such farmer would ‘rent’ a number of strips (by giving a proportion of his crops to his lordship) – although probably not together, but scattered around the manorial fields – his medieval plough (probably shared with others) turning the soil over and over, year in, year out. And, with his neighbours ploughing in the opposite direction, over time, this gradually moved the increasingly fertile earth inwards, from the edge of the strip (the furrow), causing it to build up in the middle (the ridge). And, as this creates such regular ditches, it seems likely that this process was also used to improve drainage for the farmers and their crops. 

These great open medieval fields were worked by the peasants as a community, though; and, at certain times of year – such as harvest – the whole village would come together. Although, in the end, of course, little could be done against the powers of the plague, and then enclosure – where landowners, with the full backing of the Government, could ‘enclose’ their land, and bring it into profitable use – profitable for them, anyway.

This field has not changed in hundreds and hundreds of years. It is living history. And it is a sobering thought that our ancestors would have seen what we see now. There are powers, though, now, to stop our heritage suffering more vandalism – and they are enshrined in the NPPF and other planning laws.

When Joseph Ashby – Tysoe’s most famous son – was alive, the Act of Parliament that was passed in April 1796 “for the enclosure of the open fields of Tysoe” – almost the last parish in the area to succumb: and, therefore, with little apparent resistance… – was a recent and living memory; the end of an era. Many of the pre-enclosure rituals were still enacted at harvest, therefore; and many villagers were still aware of the location of their family’s ‘lands’, or ploughing ridges – a passive, subtle, but behindhand rebellion against “a visible sign and symbol that rampant family and individual power had gained a complete victory over the civic community.”

How sad it would be if the present villagers were to have similar memories for such a vital piece of our heritage – even though we had resisted its eradication so strongly; and we had known that the law should have been on our side.

One last thought on sustainability. Sustainable development (which is what we obviously want for our village – as we know we have to keep on growing, as I have said…) is itself defined in many ways – but probably the most frequently cited is from Our Common Future, also known as the United Nations’ Brundtland Report:

Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Apply this to the proposal – and it fails at every step.

I don’t know if every resident feels the same way – I know that many do… – but I chose to live in Tysoe partly because of the lure of its isolation. (For some, I know, such isolation can be a ball-and-chain around their ankles: a threat to their physical and mental health.) However, I choose to stay here because of that isolation; the village’s utterly wonderful, large moat of countryside; and its intrinsic, unique sense of community and identity. (Those words again.)

I don’t know if it really is “the most rural village in Warwickshire”, as has been claimed – it certainly feels it, sometimes (thank goodness). What I do know is that I don’t want to be walking down Oxhill Road, with a future small grandchild in hand, explaining what the field that then holds eighty houses was; what it meant.

This may sound, to some, like that dreaded word ‘nimbyism’ – but I hope that the reasons I have outlined in my speech (and the evidence others have – and will – put forward) confirm that this is not the case.

There are so many better ways of dealing with the current – albeit slowing – rates of population growth than simply dumping eighty unsuitable, unsustainable, urban-style boxes of ticky-tacky in a field far removed from anywhere where people work and shop.

I have seen villages that have stagnated, and have therefore lost their hearts. I have seen villages rapidly transformed into towns, and therefore lose their identity and sense of community: fragmenting into places where residents neither know – or can rely on – their neighbours. I want neither of these fates to befall Tysoe – or any other village – nor do I want its growth to be part of the ruination of this planet, and its environment, that threatens the wellbeing of our children and grandchildren, and their children and grandchildren.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Sweet, sweet, sweet…!

In the three years we’ve lived here, we’ve seen many, many different birds come and go – from tits and sparrows, to starlings and redwings – and I vividly remember being welcomed by a wren, nesting in the front garden hedges, when we first came to view the house. We’ve even had a pair of lesser-spotted woodpeckers help demolish the fencing that will be replaced in the next few weeks; and a brace of blackcaps desperately nibbling at the fat-balls, in the snow.

However, although it is a common sight around here – and many have passed us by, on their way to somewhere completely different – we have yet to witness chaffinches take up residence nearby. Over the past couple of weeks, though (coinciding with my first car detailing of the year: meaning that I had a running critique of my five-hour wash-dry-polish-and-wax marathon), a male chaffinch has launched into his courting call: singing for a disproportionate amount of the day in the top of our bare-but-budding oak tree, with a wonderful range of what can only be described as cheerful, falling melodies, and accelerating rhythms. It seems amazing that something which only weighs around an ounce can compete with the noise level of passing cars (75 to 78 dB, measured at our front door…)!

I remember my grandad telling me that this trilling accelerando was likened to the quickening steps of a bowler’s run-up (my dad was a cunning proponent of the leg break…): and research confirms this – the best transliterations being “chip-chip-chip-tell-tell-cherry-erry-erry-tissi-cheweeo” and “chink-chink-chink-tee-tee-tee-terree-erree-erree-chissee-CHU-EE-OO”: as the ball flies at speed towards the unwitting batsman. (There is no subsequent toppling of stumps, however, to follow this tremendous trisyllabic flourish – even though the pace is akin to Jeff Thompson’s!) If you’re not an aging cricket aficionado, there is a more poetic rendition in William Allingham’s The Lover and the Birds – “Sweet, sweet, sweet!/Pretty lovey, come and meet me here!”

Occasionally, our chaffinch will change his refrain, or swap perches, in response to competing green- and goldfinches (now both paired up), as well as a typically aggressive robin – sometimes losing that last “oo”; or rushing towards it, with a shorter approach – once or twice, apparently, even being driven away (in typical, tumbling flight) by these challenges (or, more likely, heading off to replenish his energy at one of the plentiful nearby feeders). However, even though it is a song of desire – a true chanson d’amour – the tiny passerine seems happy to keep repeating it, sometimes adding a little flourish to his usual trills, and throwing its head back with (anthropomorphic) joy. Not even the drone of Shenington Glider Club’s flat-four-engined T61 Motor Glider upsets or interrupts what is obviously a hormonally-driven vocation.

In the past few days, he’s widened his arena: sometimes singing from the apple tree, behind the house; as well as from our rooftop – and I fear it won’t be long before he’s found a mate (especially as an apparently disinterested female has appeared); and his song no longer welcomes me, as I venture outdoors. However, as spring now seems firmly to be bedding in, his alla cappella serenade is rapidly becoming a concerto: backed by a growing orchestra of other avian minstrels intent on filling the air with their eager desiderative commotion.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Good morrow, cousin Warwick, good morrow…

There were many moments in last night’s performance of Henry IV, part II that will stick with me for a very long time: but two of them are worth highlighting because of the sheer quality (and invisibility) of the acting that seared them into my thoughts and emotions. Firstly: Sean Chapman’s desperate lament, as the Earl of Northumberland, for his son, Hotspur, near the beginning of the play; and his tangible guilt at not accompanying him to the battle of Shrewsbury. This was raw, and utterly believable, and brought tears to my eyes. As good and strong as Michael Pennington’s “old man’s rant”, as John of Gaunt.

Secondly, Oliver Ford Davies’ first appearance as Justice Shallow. As he proved in Richard II, his apparently natural – but deeply thoughtful and intelligent – approach to stagecraft wipes everything else from your mind: bringing him into rapid, but lingering focus. Feelings flit across his face; a variance in tone heightens the impact of a word; a throwaway gesture pulls the audience with him – rendering all those around him suddenly a tad less effective; until he generously encompasses them in his talent, letting them, too, shine with him – and then in front of him. His timing is perfection.

And it is timing – or pace; or even rhythm – that I believe lies at the heart of the problems I have with both of these plays; and, specifically, these performances. Although the switch from comic scene to historic meshes more evenly in part II – as the humour finally begins to drain from Falstaff’s girth, towards his sad conclusion – it is difficult to sense any overarching glue holding these two contrasting approaches together; and sometimes, I feel, there could have been just a little bit more breathing space: as with the pauses between movements in a symphony.

Falstaff is now almost completely divorced from Hal – until the final crushing blow (so perfectly represented in Elgar’s symphonic study…) – and yet such a feeling of loss (echoed in Northumberland’s mourning; the king’s increasing closeness to death; the swift defeat of the second rebellion), which could bind everything together, is, ironically, missing. We are not given the chance to stop, and take those losses to heart.

There aren’t enough meaningful relationships, either. Poins is only at Hal’s side when needed for an additional dash of humour; although Bardolph’s loyalty to Falstaff cannot be questioned – whatever its origin. Everyone seems lonely; alliances are all-too easily questioned and broken – all of which contributes to the episodic feel. It feels a little like modern government.

Without giving too much away, the chorus, Rumour’s appearance on stage, in the Prologue, even before the house lights go down – and then merging deftly into the first scene – is a stroke of rare genius; and a great reminder never to leave your mobile phone switched on in the theatre!

Open your ears; for which of you will stop
The vent of hearing when loud Rumour speaks?
I, from the orient to the drooping west
(Making the wind my post-horse), still unfold
The acts commenced on this ball of earth.
Upon my tongues continual slanders ride,
The which in every language I pronounce,
Stuffing the ears of men with false reports.
I speak of peace, while covert enmity
Under the smile of safety wounds the world;
And who but Rumour, who but only I,
Make fearful musters and prepar’d defence,
Whiles the big year, swoll’n with some other grief,
Is thought with child by the stern tyrant war,
And no such matter? Rumour is a pipe
Blown by surmises, jealousies, conjectures,
And of so easy and so plain a stop
That the blunt monster with uncounted heads,
The still-discordant wav’ring multitude,
Can play upon it. But what need I thus
My well-known body to anatomize
Among my household? Why is Rumour here?

Overall, I felt part II worked better than part I – although it was disappointing to see the theatre less than half full… – and the play built well upon those foundations. The increased concentration on the titular rôle also enabled Jasper Britton to shine: his decline was, as the play drew on, extremely poignant. Special mention must also go to young Jonathan Williams, in his debut professional appearance, as Falstaff’s page. A star in the making – with great energy and confidence; a wicked grin; and a wonderful clarity of delivery. At the end, he is all that is left on the stage – spotlit briefly, until the world he and his master inhabit fades away.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

What a devil dost thou in Warwickshire…?

Although now fashionable – and popular – Henry IV, part I (on at the RSC, in Stratford-upon-Avon, until 6 September 2014) has always seemed to me a problematical play: which depends too critically on an evolving, heroic Hal; and finely-tuned balance – between the bawdy and the political; the contrasting fatherliness of Falstaff and Henry senior; the hysterical and the historical. When first presented, it also had its critics; and Shakespeare’s struggle in writing a play ostensibly about a monarch hated by Queen Elizabeth I, I think, shows through – however much of his customary effort and skill he uses to disguise the fact: instead drawing much stronger characterizations of those around – and opposing – the king: pushing him so far into the background that it can be hard to understand his motives and motivation.

It is all too easy, therefore, to get swept along by Falstaff’s robust posturings and canny wordplay: and an excellent portrayal – as is, undoubtedly, Antony Sher’s (albeit with strong echoes of the great Anthony Quayle) – can readily wipe out some (maybe most) deficiencies in other areas. However, I still left the theatre, last night, slightly disengaged. Perhaps, part II, in a couple of nights’ time, will remedy things? (Having Henry V continue the series – after such a gripping Richard II, last year – would also help. But it is not to be….)

For me, Trevor White’s mercurial, almost Hamlet-like, Hotspur was a revelation, though: switching naturally from ecstatic hops, skips and jumps around the stage to tart depression, insolence, arrogance, anger and neediness. He engaged me much more as a romantic hero than Alex Hassell’s Prince Henry; and therefore made me so want him to survive (if not win) his fatal duel (superbly choreographed by Terry King) with his royal namesake – who seemed much more at home in Eastcheap than a suit of armour.

In contrast, Hal’s development – especially the (sudden) contrition shown to his father – seems forced. But then, perhaps that’s the point? However, knowing how the plot develops, I believe it should be more of an obvious turning point – from boy, spoilt, and with no responsibilities: to a prince bearing the weight of England (and a future crown) on his head – than a simple act of appeasing Daddy….

The renditions of Owen Glendower (Joshua Richards: who, as Bardolph, gave Sir John almost as good as he got) and the Earl of Douglas (Sean Chapman: who excelled as the Earl of Northumberland in Richard II – which he briefly reprised here) also seemed slightly cartoonish – and I don’t know if Douglas’ stripe of facial blue paint was a tribute to Braveheart or Alex Salmond. As with David Tennant’s fey hairpiece (as Richard), we certainly got our money’s worth from the wig department, though!

Paul Englishby’s stirring music played more of a starring rôle, here, than in Richard II – although I preferred the sparseness of voice and brass in the earlier play: punctuating and announcing scenes with perfectly-nuanced, repeated themes. Here, it acted as more of a soundtrack: trying to pull together deficits in momentum – although any binding leitmotifs seemed lacking.

The clever set design, by Stephen Brimson Lewis, also echoed that of his work on Richard – as did the lighting of Tim Mitchell – although, again, neither made quite the same impact.

Overall, well-worth seeing: especially if you’re going for the comedy rather than the history. But, for me, it wasn’t quite the delightful surprise that Gregory Doran made of the first of the Henriad tetralogy.