Jude Law in Obsession at the Barbican: Five of his most memorable roles on stage

Jessie Thompson

Jude Law returns to the London stage this week to star in Ivo van Hove’s Obsession at the Barbican, but he’s no stranger to treading the boards.

Law was last seen in the title role of Henry V in Michael Grandage’s theatre season at the Noel Coward Theatre in 2013. (The same season also saw plum roles for Daniel Radcliffe, Ben Whishaw and Judi Dench.) But before he became an A-list film star, he appeared on stage regularly, making his professional debut in Philip Ridley’s celebrated play The Fastest Clock in the Universe at Hampstead Theatre in 1993.

Here are a few highlights from his career in theatre.

Hamlet

Penelope Wilton stars alongside Jude Law in Hamlet (Johan Persson)

The role of the Danish king is a rite of passage for most leading men, and Law gave his in a 2009 production at Wyndham’s Theatre, directed by Michael Grandage. He was showered with snow as he gave the famous “to be or not to be” speech, amongst a set made of stone towers and wooden gates. Our critic Henry Hitchings described his delivery of the soliloquies as “vividly personal”, declaring that “the strength of Law’s performance is difficult to deny”. It ended up transferring to Broadway.

Les Parents Terribles

(Donald Cooper/Rex/Shutterstock)

Law starred in a 1994 National Theatre production of Jean Cocteau’s 1938 play. It was performed again in New York in 1996 under the title Indiscretions, with Kathleen Turner and Cynthia Nixon joining the cast. Law recently recalled in an interview how the role required him to take a bath on stage in the nuddy.

Anna Christie

(Johan Persson)

This production of Eugene O’Neill’s play at the Donmar Warehouse received high praise from critics, with his co-star Ruth Wilson receiving the Olivier award for Best Actress (Law was nominated but pipped to the post by Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller sharing the award for Frankenstein at the National Theatre). Law played a sailor who falls in love with a former prostitute; Henry Hitchings said the play was “likely to haunt those who see it for a long time”.

Doctor Faustus

Law returned to the stage for the first time since his Oscar nomination for The Talented Mr Ripley to star in Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus at the Young Vic in 2002. David Lan directed him in the story of a scholar who makes a pact with the devil, but although the box office went wild, the critics went less so; Variety critic Matt Wolf described the production as “oddly soulless”.

Henry V

(Johan Persson)

Law returned to work with Michael Grandage to head up this production of Henry V. Henry Hitchings wrote that Law offered “a deftly constructed performance that does justice the the character’s complexity, though a touch more volatility is need”.

Obsession is at the Barbican 19 April - 20 May. There will be an NT live broadcast on May 11; barbican.org.uk

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