11 February, 2015
broadcast live from the Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-upon-Avon
by William Shakespeare
Cast: Sam Alexander, Peter Basham, William Belchambers, Edward Bennett, Nick Haverson, John Hodgkinson, David Horovitch, Tunji Kasim, Sophie Khan Levy, Oliver Lynes, Emma Manton, Chris McCalphy, Frances McNamee, Peter McGovern, Chris Nayak, Jamie Newall, Roderick Smith, Flora Spencer-Longhurst, Michelle Terry, Harry Waller, Thomas Wheatley, Leah Whitaker, featuring Teddy the Bear
directed by Christopher Luscombe
Summary: In order to dedicate themselves to a life of study, the King and his friends take an oath to avoid the company of women for three years. No sooner have they made their idealistic pledge than the Princess of France and her ladies-in-waiting arrive, presenting the men with a severe test of their high-minded resolve. More here.
Love’s Labour’s Lost has not exactly been a favourite of mine, but I have to say that this production was a riot, and a master class in slapstick done right.
Set in the summer of 1914, just before the outbreak of WWI, set designer Simon Higlett outdid himself with what he accomplished on stage. The set is based on an Elizabethan mansion only a few miles outside of Stratford, and the play fits well within this time period.
There are way too many comedy scenes to name them all, but the ones I enjoyed the most were the scenes between Moth and Don Armado, and the rooftop scene at the end of the first half, with Teddy the Bear as a special guest. What a ham that bear is. John Hodgkinson’s Don Armado was a delight to watch, his over-the-top Spanish accent and over-the-topper (Is that a word? Well, it is now…) behaviour stole every scene. Nick Haverson’s Costard was superb, reminding me a lot of Trevor Peacock’s Jim in “The Vicar of Dibley” (and that’s a good thing, in case you are wondering). Edward Bennett’s Berowne was also wonderful (Sorry Lady in the row behind me who told her friend before the start that he’s the only one in the company she knows, and she doesn’t like him. I hope he changed her mind with this performance), Peter McGovern (who looks about 15, but is I believe in his late twenties) is also great in every scene. The rest of the cast were all very good.
I am immensely looking forward to the next RSC broadcast of Love’s Labour’s Won (better known as Much Ado About Nothing), a play that I am much more familiar with and that is one of my favourite Shakespeare comedies.
The issues I have with this particular play is on one hand the fact that the ladies are in my opinion unnecessarily cruel throughout, and therefore I always side with the men, and on the other hand the sudden change of tone in the last 15 minutes or so. This never sat right with me. Also the end is very abrupt and makes me feel as though Shakespeare either didn’t know how to end this thing or just couldn’t be bothered. In this particular production the ending was made tolerable by the symbolic bridge to the next RSC production “Love’s Labour’s Won” – our four protagonists come back on stage at the very end in WWI uniforms ready to be deployed. LLW is also directed by Christopher Luscombe, features most of the cast of this production, and is set in the same house just after the end of WWI in 1918, thus being treated as a sequel to LLL.
I personally subscribe to the Doctor Who theory of a LLL-sequel, but that would be a topic for a different blog 😉
Watch the trailer here: