Writer: William Shakespeare
Director: Nick Bagnall
Reviewer: Karl O’Doherty
Love’s Labour’s Lost is more a philosophic meditation on art, love and melancholy than a play. But in the best way.
A rattling thoroughfare of discourse, pretty words, wit and self indulgent writing from Shakespeare takes us through a lacklustre plot about princes and princesses. Far from heavy going, however, the production and performances are light, engaging, funny, and entirely captivating.
The story itself follows a prince and his two companions who forswear the company of women for three years while they dedicate themselves to study. However, the prince is reminded that the Princess of France is set to visit the castle soon on an official visit, so arrangements must be made. Once the prince and his companions meet the princess and her ladies in waiting, love immediately hits them, testing their study-related vows, and forcing them to think hard about how to break them within the bounds of honour.
The plot really is a vehicle for an emerging playwright to show his facility with language. Most of the performance relies on overly-verbal jokes, florid flights of speech and elongated punning. This is nicely redeemed by references to how ridiculous this type of language and wit-battling is, a self-referential gag running through that the cast here make the most of.
Making dense writing like this flow so clearly and naturally is a tough ask of anyone. It’s helped a lot by the addition of genuine humour and the odd modern, but very sympathetic, edit here and there. We lose some characters from the original, and gain some incredible musical backing. Laura Moody and James Fortune’s beautiful soundscape for this performance is truly the source of its magic. Creating recognisable characters out of gestures and music (Don Armado’s page, Moth, for example) and generating empathy, shadow and solid comedy are accomplished with seeming ease – an excellent example of the power of music when fully integrated in a show and something that’s really welcome back at the Globe.
Performances across the board are charismatic, drawing the audience in to each separate character immediately, and enjoyably. For sheer entertainment, Jos Vantyler as the ball of latin energy Don Adriano de Armado stands out. He’s taken a good comic character and raised him to the level of an excellent Puck.
With the whirlwind verbal elements, the vibrant characters and performances, incredible music and relaxed atmosphere this Love’s Labour’s Lost is a powerful argument for those who would like to see the play performed more often. It’s just, quite simply, a fantastic, intelligent and entertaining production.
Runs until 15 September 2018
Image: Marc Brenner