Henry V at the Noël Coward Theatre

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Before we even discuss of the play, I must write about the theatre itself. From the outside, the white columns and the bright lights attract the eyes like a butterfly to an enchanted flower. People are stopping in the middle of the street just to look at it. Intrigued. As you’re presenting your ticket to the employe at the entrance, you find yourself already smiling.

Inside, the magic continues. Everything looks positively ancient. The staff is lovely, smiling, and makes you feel immediately at home. The cold outside is quickly forgotten, lost in the warm red, enveloping you like the most comfortable blanket. You’re not in a theatre, you are in a palace.

And soon, you realise that all this has become a part of the play’s soul itself. Brace yourself, you’re about to meet the King. Henry V.

Ashley Zhangazha is the first to appear on the the old wooden stage… Dressed up like a regular bloke from the XXIst century. Jeans, t-shirt and backpack. Making your brain go like “What’s going on??”. He is, I must say, the perfect modern touch of the play, contrasting so greatly with everything else that he ends up being, in fact, essential.

And then of course, Henry V, played by the well known Jude Law, makes his entrance. Sitting on his throne, discussing England’s business. He is soon interrupted by the french herald Montjoy, brilliantly played by Prasanna Puwanarajah, bringing with him the Dauphin’s insults. At this moment, we get the first glimpse of the conflicted personality of this Henry V. As he’s obviously sincerely trying his best, and succeeding, to keep a straight face, we can already feel his rage boiling underneath his skin, running through his blood.

And of course, I can hardly write about Montjoy and Henry V without mentioning Exeter, played by the excellent James Laurenson. The king’s uncle, and his messenger, always so calm and sarcastic in comparison to his noble nephew, is definitely one of my favorite characters, even though not the main one.

But then there’s also Kate. The gorgeous, prude and naive young princess of France, played by Jessie Buckley, always closely followed by Noma Dumezweni. I must admit, as a french girl, I couldn’t wait to see these two. And I must say, they exceeded all my expectations. It is not often that i get to laugh the way I did thanks to them. I was amazed by their almost flawless french accent, and delighted by their caricature (but is it really?) of what us “frenchies” sound like when we try to speak english. Thus, they showed us, with Jude Law, the most imperfect yet brilliant way to court I had ever seen.

I also have to say that there could be no Henry V without the outrageous Pistol, played by Ron Cook, and his friends Bardolf (Jason Baughan) and Nym, played by Norman Bowman. Pistol’s costume is rather… Interesting. But I won’t say more about it, hoping that you will get to see it yourself. You should also know that Norman Bowman also plays Williams, the soldier who finds himself into a rather difficult position after defying the king himself to a duel without knowing who he’s talking to. And, to put it simply, it’s a blast to see him and Jude Law on stage together.

Michael Grandage once more offers us an exceptional moment out of time with the help of the great James Bierman and the most wonderful cast one could ever dream of. This is the play that almost made me forget my own nationality, because that’s how great it was. Enjoy!

Alixia Buffière.

P.S : On a more personal note, I want to thank (again) James Laurenson, James Bierman, and Norman Bowman for being so incredibly nice (and talented). Yes, the world deserves to know. Cheers!!

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