Henry V, with Jude Law, Noël Coward Theatre, December 2013

“O for a muse of fire … a kingdom for a stage, princes to act …”. And though they were but actors all, confined to the stage of the Noël Coward Theatre, this Michael Grandage production came over with conviction. The heavy weathered boards of which sets and stage was made gave a feeling of trusty permanence to the Englishmen laying claim to a dual kingdom, displayed on Henry’s costume split half and half between the lions of England and the fleur-de-lys.

These wonderful designs by Christopher Oram were complemented by Neil Austin’s excellent lighting that allowed the humans in this drama to give life to what would otherwise be an empty world, well represented during the scene for Harry in the Night where we see low burning fires and a starry sky behind. Gloriously atmospheric sound design by Adam Cork gave a marvellous crescendo before the battle, yet elicited a quiet emotional tug for the marriage scene between Henry and Princess Katherine.

She was charmingly portrayed by Jessie Buckley, with Richard Clifford providing excellent stage presence as a wise and sympathetic French king, and Ben Lloyd-Hughes giving a superb performance of his son the Dauphin, annoyingly callow yet brave withal. Among the English, James Laurenson was a firm yet gentle Exeter, Ron Cook a flamboyantly witty Pistol, and Matt Ryan gave a beautifully nuanced performance of Fluellen. All these and others played well in a team led by Jude Law as a superbly controlled Henry with fire in his belly.

His convincingly natural performance of the King, along with the excellent staging, lighting, soundscape and costume designs made this a riveting Henry V.

Performances continue until February 15 — for details click here.

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