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Review Round-Ups

Critics enjoy Grandage's Henry V starring Jude Law

The last in Michael Grandage's West End season, ''Henry V'', opened at the Noel Coward Theatre last week. Starring Jude Law in the title role, it runs until 22 February 2014

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Jude Law as Henry V
© Johan Persson

Maxwell Cooter

Michael Grandage's fast-paced production. There is little subtlety but this is a fine rendering of this complex play…At the heart, of course, is the king himself. Jude Law's Henry is a man of action, and a man of anger… But then, nor is there any sense of nobility from his army. Grandage portrays them as a feral bunch, a group of desperadoes that are barely controlled by the king…There's an inner fire in Law that ensures he always commands attention… There are plenty of light touches, not from the king but from Ron Cook's preening Pistol… Jessie Buckley and Noma Dumezweni make for a fine Katherine and Alice.… Law's fierce, uncomplicated, martial Henry is the heartbeat of an excellently clear-sighted production.

Charles Spencer
Daily Telegraph

Michael Grandage's… admirably fleet and dramatically gripping production of Henry V… with a terrific star performance from Jude Law in the title role...designed by Christopher Oram… largely staged in medieval dress… the one character in modern dress… invites us to compare Henry's exploits with the conflicts of our own times. It is a simple but telling device that proves highly effective…this is one of the richest and most detailed performances of Henry V that I have ever seen. He combines palpable authority with a ready wit, acts with chilling ruthlessness when he needs to and movingly captures the King's doubts and the awful burden of his responsibility... The supporting cast is superb.

Michael Billington

… it is Law's complex portrait of Shakespeare's contradictory king that is far and away the most fascinating aspect of an efficient, well-managed production that doesn't aspire to the topical resonance of recent revivals… Law presents us with a divided character whose surface graciousness masks a violent rage… Law certainly knows how to turn on the charm, as he does excellently in the wooing scene with the French princess… As an actors' director, Grandage obviously deserves credit for the canniness of Law's portrayal…For the rest this is a fast, well-staged account of a problematic play. Christopher Oram's design, dominated by a scarred wooden stockade, is practical and effective…It also crowns a remarkable Grandage season that through star names, cheap tickets and quality productions has attracted a new audience…

Henry Hitchings
Evening Standard

… Law makes an intelligent, conflicted king... Capable of being steely and severe, he is also blessed with charm and relaxed humour… Law seems to celebrate Henry's virile style of kingship while also affording us a criticism of his ruthlessness. It's a deftly constructed performance that does justice to the character's complexity, though a touch more volatility is needed...Ashley Zhangazha stands out. He's the Chorus, beautifully expressive…Grandage's interpretation is fluent… But as it drives along efficiently, it occasionally seems oddly colourless… Though several scenes delight, others feel flat. The second half is better than the first, with moments of surprising campfire intimacy, but while it's admirably lucid, there is a lack of real freshness.

Quentin Letts
Daily Mail

Shakespeare's Henry V has a surfeit of smiting…Amid this warfare – seldom entirely convincing on a stage – the actor playing Henry V must make us believe he is not only England's totemic warrior king but that he is also sufficiently interesting as a dramatic personality…He is fit enough physically to wear period battledress without looking silly…He glowers beautifully, even if he resembles a slimmed down Phil Collins…The subtlety is interesting. But a more clearly telegraphed steeliness might help further leaven moments…Mr Law has a worthy opponent in the glamour stakes in the Dauphin…Richard Clifford's King Charles of France is a strange creation; shades of a Monty Python medieval king… Christopher Oram's set is a not entirely innovative stockade wall with a peeling lime wash… Henry's love scene … is a welcome change after all that manly striding... Yet under Mr Grandage's assured direction and with Mr Law's magnetism, this show has a puissance of its own.