Wednesday, 22 January 2014

'Henry V' at the Noel Coward Theatre

We went to see 'Henry V' at the Noel Coward Theatre the other night and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I saw Adrian Lester play Henry a decade ago and now it's the turn of Jude Law to take the part. I've seen him on stage a couple of times ('Hamlet' which I enjoyed and 'Anna Christie' which I enjoyed less so, both of which were Michael Grandage productions) and this was, I think, his best and most immediate performance.

Why did I like it? Well, firstly, it was in period costume (Adrian Lester's version was in modern battle dress and modern weapons) and that worked really well. The acting across the whole cast was really good and the lighting and staging was superb. It all came together nicely to give us a really good production.

The smell of dry ice was in the air in the theatre and the stage was a plain wall painted as if grey timber that moved and opened up for different scenes but kept the background to the action largely the same. There was lots of movement on the stage so that provided some continuity.

I particularly liked Noma Dumezweni as Mistress Quickly - she really knows how to speak verse and kept all eyes on her, as did Ron Cook as Pistol, particularly when he captures a Frenchman for ransom (a truly funny scene) and when he eats leek (the leek nearly flew off the stage that night). It's probably unfair to pick those two out of an all-round excellent cast but I did enjoy their performances.

I also really enjoyed Jude Law's performance as well and the depth of his characterisation was quite impressive. Jude nailed the 'St Crispin's Day' speech

... And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

Where's my sword? I'll fight beside you my King! It was a stirring speech and, if we weren't (mainly) British, we would have rushed the stage to join his army there and then. Watch out you French, we have 'Enerey Vee!

It was odd to see the ushers walking round with 'no photography' signs (that some people ignored) that suggested this wasn't a standard 'theatre audience'. I'm not too bothered about that though, if Jude is bringing in people new to theatre and new to Shakespeare. That's a good thing really.

If you get the chance you really should see this production. Bring your sword but leave your camera at home please.

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