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William SHAKESPEARE (1564-1616)

Love’s Labour’s Lost

OPUS ARTE OA 1035 D [166:00]

Experience Classicsonline

King of Navarre: Philip Cumbus
Berowne: Trystan Gravelle
Longaville: William Mannering
Dumaine: Jack Farthing
Princess of France: Michelle Terry
Rosaline: Thomasin Rand
Maria: Jade Anouka
Katharine: Siân Robins-Grace
Boyet: Tom Stuart
Don Armado: Paul Ready
Moth: Seroca Davis
Holofernes: Christopher Godwin
Sir Nathanial: Patrick Godfrey
Dull: Andrew Vincent
Costard: Fergal McElherron
Jaquenetta: Rhiannon Oliver
Mercadé: James Lailey
Directed by Dominic Dromgoole
Designed by Jonathan Fensom
Music composed by Claire van Kampen
rec. October 2009, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, London.
Sound format: LPCM stereo; Dolby Digital surround sound
Picture format: 16:9
Picture standard: NTSC
Region code: 0
Subtitles: EN

 
In this comedy, four scholars, including the King of Navarre, make a pledge not to speak to women for three years, so they might study and learn great things. Naturally, it is hard to keep this pledge, especially when the Princess of France comes to parley with the King. As she says:
 
Navarre hath made a vow,
Till painful study shall outwear three years,
No woman may approach his silent court
(Act II, Scene 1)
 
Naturally, the men see the women, fall in love, and then it’s a 16th century version of Sex and the City from then on, though there is no real happy ending, as is usually the case in Shakespeare’s comedies.
 
One of Shakespeare’s earliest comedies, Love’s Labour’s Lost is a sort of intellectual comedy, with sophisticated wordplay, Latin phrases, and a complicated love story between four scholars and four maids from the court of France.
 
Performed at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London, the reproduction of the original Globe, a skilful troupe of actors presents this work. The theatre is built in such a way that some of the audience stands below the stage, and walkways extend through the audience, allowing the actors to be in the middle of the spectators. This works well, especially in the more physical scenes.
 
At 2800 lines, this is one of Shakespeare’s longest comedies, and it does drag a bit. The production tries to keep things moving, but it can be hard to follow with many period allusions and puns (based on meanings from Shakespeare’s time) that are now opaque. The director chose here to add as much slapstick comedy as possible, no doubt in an attempt to liven things up, and this helps keep the story moving.
 
Unfortunately, the actors don’t seem convinced that the play is indeed an entertainment, and the overall performance is spotty. While they present a good ensemble, only a couple of them stand out: Trystan Gravelle as Berowne, and Fergal McElherron as Costard, the ignorant country bumpkin, who is one of Shakespeare’s most refreshing characters, and whose lack of intelligence is a fine counterpoint to the pretended wits of the “scholars” in the play. It is Costard who, in this play, uses the longest word in all of Shakespeare, “honorificabilitudinitatibus”, when mocking a learned schoolmaster.
 
It’s not fair to fault the actors, though. This long play is hard to present, and is not one of the most popular of Shakespeare plays. They do acquit themselves quite well given the text and its longueurs. For real fans of Shakespeare, it’s worth seeing this production, but for the casual theatre-lover, it might be better to look at other Shakespeare plays.
 
Kirk McElhearn
 
 


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