Jude Law wows critics with his 'rich, detailed' Henry V

The staging can be a bit 'middle-of-the-road', but Law's heroic king exudes 'natural charisma'

LAST UPDATED AT 10:44 ON Wed 4 Dec 2013

THE first commercial West End production of Shakespeare's Henry V since 1938 is an "efficient, well-managed production", writes The Guardian's Michael Billington. But its star – Jude Law – transcends the rather utilitarian staging by delivering a "complex portrait of a national hero-cum-war criminal" that is "the very antithesis of a hooray Henry performance".

Billington's view that Law is the best thing about director Michael Grandage's production of the Bard's history play is shared by most critics.

Writing in The Independent, Paul Taylor says the actor "vividly blends the kind of natural charisma that can rouse tired troops with a brooding spiritual uneasiness that has its affinities with Hamlet".

There are times, says Taylor, that the staging feels "a bit middle-of-the-road". But Law is consistently strong, turning in a deeply nuanced performance.

"It's a key to the success of Law's Henry that whenever he is most emphatic, he sounds as if he trying to convince himself too," writes Taylor. "Law lets you see that the king's rather creepy tricks and jokes are cannily stage-managed public relations exercises."

The Daily Telegraph's Charles Spencer gives the play a five-star review and says Law "doesn't put a foot wrong". At first glance, the 40-year-old actor's physical appearance – "relatively short of stature and with a receding hairline" – does not suggest a heroic king, he writes. "But this is one of the richest and most detailed performances of Henry V that I have ever seen."

Spencer adds: "He [Law] 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 on the eve of Agincourt. And he delivers the wonderful rousing speeches to the troops with thrilling eloquence.

The Daily Mail's Baz Bamigboye adds to the chorus of approval. Law is "stirring", he writes and has "a noble lustre in his eyes". · 

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