Writer: William Shakespeare
Director: Christopher Luscombe
Reviewer: Anna Ambelez
Reality versus fantasy, love, desire, reckoning and rationalization. These are themes in Love’s Labour’s Lost. Ferdinand King of Navarre (Sam Alexander) and his three companions, Berowne (Edward Bennett), Dumaine (Tunji Kasim) and Longaville (William Belchambers) vow to forsake the company of women for three years in order to study and fast.
…the mind shall banquet, though the body fast
The four show a strong sense of public schoolboy comradery. However their intentions are thwarted when they are confronted with the Princess of France (Leah Whitaker) and her three ladies in waiting.
As the story unfolds the audience experiences many delightful performances of utter comic brilliance. Costard, the gardener (Nick Haverson) is a cross between Norman Wisdom, Manuel in Faulty Towers and more, Berowne gives such expression facially and verbally to his part as to induce laughter with a mere glance. Don Armado (John Hodgkinson) a Spanish traveler, is large in stature and presence with mischievous innuendo and an amusing accent. Dull the policeman (Chris McCalpy) while a minor character gives a ‘hugh’ performance bringing the house down with a single line, and the use of Dumaine’s teddy bear is a stroke of genius. This is complimented by strong character performances overall, which added to this original music (Nigel Hess) and song, how can you fail? While “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, there seems to be a popular trend to cast glamorous personalities from stage or screen in any unfrivolous rôle. The female acting fraternity however must applaud a play featuring five excellently cast ‘mature’ women.
The warm honey tones of an inner sanctum, the library, in the opening scene draws you into a wonderful mélange of warm peachy hues and golden oak. This silently disappears into the rear, exposing the exterior of the Tudor Estate. The delightful set design (Simon Higlett) is based on the National Trust Property Charlecote Park, the Warwickshire Country Estate, four miles from Stratford-upon-Avon. The scene when the four men discover each other’s intentions takes place on the roof, an idea inspired by Brideshead Revisited; here it splendidly rises from the floor to great effect. The emotional ‘finale’ scene and song is reminiscent of ‘Oh What A Lovely War. This production is twinned with Love’s Labour’s Won, (Much Ado About Nothing) and is set in the hot 1914 summer, coinciding with the centenary of the First World War with costumes echoing the Edwardian feel. The second part is being broadcast March 4th.
One of Shakespeare’s earlier comedies, it contains many familiar hallmarks, the court clown, hidden identities, innuendos and a play within a play. The text overflows with a mercurial quality, “A mint of phrases in his brain…” – a fitting attribute of this play. The humour derived from delivery, looks and movement, almost ribald, raucous and pantomimesque, may not appeal to some Shakespearian purists; but this is a comedy written for 17th century audiences who wanted to be to amused and entertained. The audiences in Stratford and Durham certainly showed their enjoyment. Love’s labour may appear to be lost, but the audience is certainly won.
Reviewed on: 11th February 2015