Henry V review

April 8, 2014, Article by Ben Willis in Reviews, Theatre & Comedy

My friend bought our tickets for Michael Grandage’s excellent production of Henry V two years ago, bizarrely on one of those ‘last late minute’ websites.

I found the email I’d sent her saying ‘I wonder what we’ll be up to in two years’ time!’ My hope was that I’d be eating a meal-in-a-pill whilst hoverboarding to work, not sitting in clothes made mainly of old cornflakes and dust hoping if I burped loud enough I could change channel without having to reach for the remote.

That’s not a scenario Jude Law ever finds himself in, I suspect. As Henry, he is superb – brimming with kingly charisma as he inspires his men, though with overtures of uncomfortable bloodlust when commanding them to murder the French prisoners.

A minority have criticised Law for seeming lacklustre or even unconvincing when Henry’s persuading his troops to fight on, but I’d definitely stick with the majority who recognise this as a nuance of Law’s performance, that crucially the King is really trying to convince himself.

In the last act we see a different side to Henry. Law is charmingly besotted as he tries to chat up Jessie Buckley’s excellent Princess Katharine, getting a big laugh when he petulantly asks: ‘D’ya like me Kate?’

He’s so amiably matey in this scene, he comes across as the sort of bloke’s bloke who, when buying a round, gets some crisps and opens the bag up on the table for everyone without mentioning the additional cost incurred.

As for the rest: the supporting cast are strong, the standout being Ron Cook as Pistol, who has a bit of a Mick Jagger swagger about him. Having Ashley Zhangazha double as the Chorus and the Boy is an interesting technique, and he is involved as the latter in the most shocking moment of the play.

It only remains for us to say you must go and see this one if you can. Oh, and also make the apparently obligatory reference to Jude’s receding hairline, which is important for some reason.

Booking runs up to 12/02/2014, Noel Coward Theatre