Writer: William Shakespeare
Director: Tom Littler
Reviewer: Steve Turner
Written towards the end of the sixteenth century Shakespeare’s comedy Love’s Labour’s Lostfeatures the longest scene and the longest word in any of his works. There is also more than the usual helping of sophisticated wordplay and convoluted literary references, such that it might seem a little impenetrable. Thankfully the Guildford Shakespeare Company make light of any complications and deliver a completely captivating production set in the beautiful surroundings of the University of Law gardens, helped in no small measure by some glorious late evening sunshine.
Reimagined to 1939 and featuring an appropriate musical soundtrack the King of Navarre and his three companions are portrayed as members of the Bloomsbury Group who have arrived at a place in the country and have sworn to adhere to their studies to fast and forego the company of women for three years – notably Berowne is more reluctant to sign than the others, pointing out that their oaths will never last as they are about to be visited by the Princess of France and her companions.
Just as Berowne predicted, as soon as the ladies arrive all thoughts of avoiding female company are cast to the wind as the men become infatuated by the ladies and set out to woo them with most amusing results. Their fasting is soon put aside also as when the women aren’t around to tempt them, there never seems to be a shortage of cake!
With so much intricate dialogue including some Latin for good measure, it is a tribute to the whole cast that they remain word perfect throughout, never faltering in their delivery and they all seem to derive as much pleasure from delivering the lines as the audience does in hearing them. Played out to a backdrop of trees and with a slight wind in their faces, the quality of their voices shines through as if speaking Shakespeare was the most natural thing to do, never feeling false or forced from beginning to end.
Of the cast standout performances come from Gavin Fowler as the reluctant faster but enthusiastic suitor Berowne, Chris Porter as the earnest Ferdinand, Sarah Gobran the glamourous and artful Princess of France and Natasha Rickman displaying some heartfelt emotion as Rosaline. Matt Pinches also delivers two comic performances as the lovelorn romantic Don Adriano, and the delightfully camp Boyet. Credit is due though to the entire cast, perhaps those mentioned above only really standout as they get the best lines.
Tom Littler deserves plenty of praise for this adaptation and also for his direction, making use of some of the natural features of the garden as well as some of the man-made ones to help keep a lively feel to the piece. The costume changes for those playing more than one role are managed so that characters come and go in such a fluid way that it seems there must be more than 10 people involved in the cast, quite an achievement with only some trees to hide behind!
The whole piece is wonderfully set, lit, and performed with some excellent use of sound effects and music throughout, a great evening’s entertainment
Get a ticket, grab a picnic and enjoy Shakespeare in the sunshine
Runs until 28 July 2018 | Image: Mark Dean