Plot: The King of Navarre and his courtiers have forsworn every kind of pleasure. But a visit from the Princess of France and her lovely entourage soon has this all-male ‘academe’ tearing up its own rulebook.
Shakespeare’s celebration of the claims of young love is a festive parade of every weapon in the youthful playwright’s comic arsenal – from excruciating cross-purposes to silly impersonations, drunkenness, bustups and pratfalls. It’s also his most joyful banquet of language, groaning with puns, rhymes, bizarre syntax, grotesque coinages and parody.
I’m on a mission to watch as many of the Bard’s plays as possible and as of this writing this is just my 12th Shakespeare play as opposed to fellow theatre trotter LondonTheatreGoer who has seen all of it that took him 18 years. I really wanted to see the RSC’s version last year with Tennant as Berowne and felt letdown that only Hamlet made it to London, and even if I had tickets for that, Tennant was indisposed because of his slipped disc, but we were entertained by Edward Bennett nonetheless. So when I was booking for the Shakespeare Globe’s 2009 season, I was thrilled that Love’s Labour’s Lost was part of their Young Hearts season.
Having seen As You Like It (brilliant), Troilus and Cressida (so-so), Romeo and Juliet (just about right), I had high hopes for Love’s Labour’s Lost, mainly because it had almost the same cast from the 2007 production that artistic director Dominic Dromgoole helmed which must be a good thing if they are bringing it back. I’ll try and be good as this was the first preview performance.
I got quite familiar with the actors playing the characters in this comedy (which I need after seeing two rather intense plays earlier this week) as I saw most of them in other productions and easily felt at ease to see Paul Ready as Don Armado which I think he did really well, Philip Cumbus as the King of Navarre, and Trystan Gravelle as Berowne who played their lovestruck characters to the hilt. Gravelle’s mellifluous voice was just beautiful, thanks for that Welsh accent.
Now as for Michelle Terry, whom I have seen at the National’s England People Very Nice and All’s Well that Ends Well was just comical and at the same time impassioned as the Princess of France. She is not considered the lead here but the stage loves her, and so did the audience. As with most of the Bard’s plays, again it was the wordplay that did me in, reminding us all of the briliance of Master Shakespeare in the field of writing. It was almost pantomimic but that’s perhaps because of all the intended mix ups, and beautiful music provided by musicians Nick Perry, George Bartle, David Hatcher, Claire McIntyre.
It’s not excellent as ‘As You Like It’ but there is definitely no love lost here.
Love’s Labour’s Lost: 3/5
Playing at the Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre until 10 October.