In a barracks set in the time, if not the location, of the Falklands War, soldiers pace about, nervous, eager, frightened. One pauses to tell us that we must imagine the vastness of France, the scale of death and destruction soon to be visited on these fighting men and thus demands our active participation in the creation of drama. Sat, as we are, on sandbags in a perfectly realised barracks, as harrier jets pass low and searingly loud above us, it's not difficult to oblige.
Attired in the 1982 chic of military fatigues for work and Fred Perrys and Doctor Martens for play, Theatre Delicatessen's Henry V (at Marylebone Gardens until 30 June) catches a time (perhaps the last) when clean military victories were possible, when Harry's rhetoric of glory in a just cause for England would not instantly die on a cynic's raised eyebrow and when war was fought in battles between regular armies and not by unmanned aircraft sent against ununiformed men.
As Henry, Philip Desmeules, square of shoulder, steady of eye, is all alpha male when summarily disposing of traitors, but leavens the SAS commander schtick with private doubt made manifest in the famous incognito visits to his men the night before battle. He grows up in public, seeing off Liam Smith's tired and defeatist Charles VI of France by instilling his iron will into his "band of brothers". There's excellent support for these two contrasting performances especially from Laura Martin-Simpson, sexy and funny, as Katherine, the French King's daughter whom Henry so clumsily woos and Chris Tester, channelling the spirit of Dad's Army's CorporAl Jones as the keen, experienced, but none too bright, Fluellen.
Though one of Shakespeare's long and wordy plays (Henry does talk a lot!) Katherine Heath's transformation of the old Radio London studios is so packed with period detail that there's always something to hold the attention - and it's well worth wandering round the space in the interval to see the bedroom posters and family photos. I did and reflected on 1982, when I was 19, the same age as many of the Argentine and British combatants in that short war, some of whom never made it back home. It was Harry's rhetoric of a just cause and his holding out of the prospect of the glory that comes with victory that inflamed their passions - no doubt they harboured his doubts too.
Article amended 1 June to correct actor's name above to Chris Tester.