THE first of three plays commissioned by the Berry Theatre to mark the 600th anniversary of the battle of Agincourt, told the story of the ‘Southampton Plot’ (briefly mentioned by Shakespeare) to overthrow the king and put Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March, on the throne.

The four excellent actors held the audience rapt as the plot unfolded in all its complexities, Darrell Brockis’ committed but misguided Scrope of Masham, torn between his love for the king and his sympathy for the plotters, ultimately suffering betrayal at the hands of Ben Callon’s devious turncoat Mortimer, followed by gruesome execution.

Tom Brownlee’s forthright Henry V supportive of his followers but brutally severe with his enemies, did not suffer fools gladly, ordering the death at Southampton of leading plotter Richard, Earl of Cambridge (a moving and totally credible performance by Chris Gunter).

Told in flashback, beautifully lit (by Tim Slater) and with an atmospheric soundscape by Stephen Dobbie, writer Ben Musgrave’s accessible piece of theatre, directed by Owen Calvert-Lyons, brings into sharp focus the part played by this region of Hampshire in the plot, name-checking Itchen Ferry, Romsey and Swanwick among other localities.

Following the progression of the story at performances from Portchester Castle along the coast to Southampton, this thoroughly entertaining and instructive history lesson was a terrific forerunner start, with to the ensuing two plays in the series (‘The Road to Glory and Shakespearience’) to be staged locally in the autumn.

Ed Howson