Jude Law in Henry V

Well, write this one on the calendar. I saw a production of Henry V that I didn’t like. This makes me incredibly sad for a lot of reasons, but most of all because it’s my favorite play and I desperately want to love it every time I see it. And I tried, I really tried.  It’s even more distressing because Jude Law played Henry, and I feel as if I really ought to like it.

But nope.

There were times when the play (and the cast) really did shine: the English lesson between Kate and Alice; Henry trolling the shit out of Williams and Fluellan; Fluellan forcing Pistol to eat the leek; and Henry wooing Kate at the end. The thing you’ll notice about that list is those are all the really comedic sequences of the play. And particularly the last scene, with Henry attempting to woo Kate, Jude Law and Jessie Buckley just killed it. I couldn’t stop laughing.

(Aside: This also reminded me that when the play is trimmed down for production, it’s often the more comedic scenes that get excised, particularly the ones that involve Fluellan…who I actually really enjoy.)

There was so much life in the comedic scenes. In contrast, it felt like that energy was completely lacking in the more serious parts, particularly the scenes around the battles. Now, I know battles themselves aren’t the easiest to stage (particularly not when we’ve all been spoiled by movies) but I’ve seen plenty of plays manage it and do so with a lot of tension, some recently. (*coughcoughCoriolanuscoughcough*) The acting felt very self consciously “Shakespearean,” and much to the detriment of the play. (This effect not helped by the costuming, which at times made me wonder if a renaissance festival had exploded nearby.) I didn’t get drawn into the story, and while I certainly wanted to laugh with Jude Law, I sure as hell didn’t feel like charging after him into battle.

I heard Jude Law was really excellent in Hamlet, and I can believe that very much after watching this. He’s got great timing and was at his absolute best when he was playing with the language…which is the sort of thing that serves Hamlet very, very well. Not so much with Henry, though, who needs to be courageous far more often than he needs to be clever.

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