Sunday, 2 February 2014

Review: Henry V

Here's a thing. In April I'll be 28. When Kenneth Branagh was 28 he was starring in and directing his definitive film version of Henry V and getting Oscar nommed in the process. It's hard for me not to find this fact a bit depressing.

I love KenBran's Henry V. It's a fantastic film, not least because of his powerhouse central performance. It's one of the roles I feel belongs to KB (in some ridiculous fangirl way) and I feel like it should be jealously guarded from other, inevitably lesser, actors.

Jude Law is someone who I would have described as very definitely a lesser actor. I know he's done Shakespeare before and been well received, I know his theatre performances have been generally highly praised and I know he's been Oscar nommed twice but I've never been a fan. I was therefore very sceptical of his version of Price Hal closing the Michael Grandage season at the Noël Coward theatre.

Sometimes it's really lovely to be proved wrong.

Jude Law is an excellent Henry V. Not only are his set piece speeches perfectly delivered (and this is important in a play with a couple of biggies - who wants to see a HV with a crappy St Crispin's day?) but he brings out the complexities on Henry's character with a deftness and lightness of touch rarely seen in such an iconic character. There are moments of real vulnerability - his pre-Agincourt soliloquy is particularly effecting.

What was more revelatory for me though was the comedy he got from the character. HV is not a character I've ever really associated with the lolz but Law's HV was genuinely very funny in places. The courting scene with Princess Katherine (very charmingly played by Jessie Buckley, who's apparently come rather a long way since not winning I'd Do Anything some years ago) was hilarious - if slightly long - but it was the throwaway lines in other scenes that worked particularly well. I loved the 'Fluellen take this glove' part in particular (apologies for people who don't know the text and have no idea what that means).

The whole production was extremely classy. Simply staged in a plain wooden semicircular set with almost no props, the editing and directing made for a quick, slick and focused production supported by an excellent ensemble cast. Even the frankly slightly tiresome jokes about the Welsh seemed funny.

All in all, a top night at the theatre and a fantastic ending for the Michael Grandage West End season. There are still a couple of weeks left of this production and I'd highly recommend you get yourself a ticket.

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