War is everywhere just now, both onstage in the numerous commemorations of World War One's centenary year as well as an increasingly ugly present world.

The centrepiece of this year's Bard in the Botanics What We May Be season, goes forth with three of Shakespeare's history plays to tackle both the personal and political consequences of conflict.

Bard in the Botanics director Gordon Barr not only condenses both parts of Henry IV into just over two hours, but has it played in the catwalk of the Kibble Palace by just three actors.

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It's a version full of macho

swagger that charts Prince Hal's

wild years from estrangement from his father and slumming it with Falstaff to finding out where his true loyalties lay.

There's an acerbic edge to both James Ronan's Prince and Tom Duncan's Hotspur, while Kirk Bage lends emotional depth to Falstaff as well as the King.

As Hal takes the throne and leaves the gang behind, the play's final image is of a rejected Falstaff sitting alone, his meal ticket lost forever.

What Harry did next can be seen across the gardens in an open-air Henry V adapted and directed by Jennifer Dick, whose concept frames the play around a school fete circa 1915, with the pupils and teachers sat either side of a wooden assembly hall stage flanked by stalls. This set-up allows the parallels between Agincourt and Flanders to be

made plain, with between-scene interludes flagging up letters from the school to the families of fallen former pupils.

Henry's "Once more into the breach" speech, meanwhile, becomes a rabble-rousing dispatch from the front-line delivered by a man of action over a soundtrack of gunfire and bombs.

Such shadows of doom hang even heavier in the second half, with the cast marching on like a public school cadet force.

The men's uniforms become gradually more up to date, so by the time Henry mouths his "We happy few" speech, he may still sport the crown, but he's also wearing the khaki of an officer in the trenches.

As played here by Daniel Campbell, Henry may have become a statesman, but you can still see the unruly lad within.

Robert Elkin's Boy Chorus is a crucial figure, from igniting the audience's imagination, to the way he, like Falstaff, sits to one side, the black arm-band over his uniform counteracting any triumphalism elsewhere.