Writer: William Shakespeare
Director: Christopher Luscombe
Reviewer: Anna Ambelez
Love’s Labour’s Won or Much Ado about Nothing, is a tale of two pairs of lovers, one pair maligned and the other pushed together by friends. Claudio (Tunji Kasim) in love with Hero (Flora Spencer-Longhurst), rejects her at the altar, accusing her of infidelity, having been duped into believing it. While her cynical sharp tongued cousin Beatrice (Michelle Terry) and Benedick (Edward Bennet) are tricked into loving each other.
There’s a skirmish of wit between them
Beatrice is considered one of Shakespeare’s feistiest female characters and rather reminiscent of Katharina in The Taming of the Shrew.
After hearing a conversation, RSC Artistic Director Gregory Doran had the idea of presenting Love’s Labour’s Lost and Love’s Labour’s Won in a unique pairing, the first ever using a single company of actors – “They belong together”, he says.
There are parallels between the two, switched identities, hapless policemen, masked balls, and as a continuation of Love’s Labour’s Lost, both are set in the same location, Charlecote Park. The first part, Love’s Labour’s Lost was set on the eve of First World War 1914 and this in a post-war house party in Autumn 1918, four years later, as were they written in 1598-1599 and 1594-1595.
WWI is one of the most shocking events in our history, yet these men enter the scene as if returning from a hunting trip. Indeed the war plays no real part in the play, other than as a device to connect the two pieces. Apart from Don John’s (Sam Alexander) bad leg, there is no suggestion of injury in any form, physically or mentally. The one exception is Dogberry the constable (Nick Haverson); this comic character is strangely tragic. Haverson’s physicality adds great depth to the character and while extremely amusing, leaves questions. He says he is “…a rich fellow enough”, yet lives in near poverty. His shaking hands are a sure sign of PTSD, and where did those strange tics come from – what lies in his past?
One indication of the era is shown by the great ‘shame’ that the hero is falsely accused of, illustrating how a woman’s purity was so revered, and catastrophic to her and her family if lost. Yet, there are inconsistencies with the period and setting; servants dancing and mixing with their employers for example, was not quite socially viable in 1918. Love’s Labor’s Lost is largely written in prose, which should have the effect of making it more ‘real’. However, the post war austerity is not felt in this production and is sadly lacking the vivacity, vitality, exuberance and energy of the first part. The slapstick humour seems contrived and misplaced, as if unwilling to rely on the inherent wit in the text.
As in the previous production, theatre hydraulics feature heavily, such as a full sized billiards table arising from the floor, all for a short scene, sometimes it feels like the production just tries too hard. There are good performances, elaborate scene changes, which the packed house clearly enjoys, and Shakespeare’s inspired wit and ingenuity never fails to delight, but overall one is left feeling somewhat dissatisfied.
Currently screening at cinema’s around the UK. Visit the website for more details.