Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon
4 October 2008
Love's Labours win through!
Much as I love Autumn Saturdays in front of "Strictly" with a homemade curry, hen turning over to X-Factor just to talk about how contrived and rubbish it is, you really can't beat Stratford instead!
Love's Labours Lost is a weird one – as a play that is!
It many ways it is typical Shakespearean fayre with various characters having secret slash inappropriate loves, letters ending up with the wrong recipients and lovers donning disguises to woo the objects of their desire.
Basically the story is that the King of Navarre and the nobles of his court vow to study, fast, sleep little and see no ladies for three years. However, of course, this would make for a pretty boring play so of course the writer has to have the Princess of France arrives, together with three ladies in waiting – one for each nobleman. And guess what? The Lords discover their resolve is more difficult to keep than they first imagined.
In many ways it is predictable, until that is, things start to get wrapped up – or not! It is thought to be one of Shakespeare’s earliest comedies which perhaps explains why it has an ending that begs a sequel. It doesn’t end up with everyone living happily ever after with the most appropriate partner like the majority of his comedies do. Instead, the females ask the men to wait a year for them. Playing rather unusually hard to get for a Shakespearean comedic woman! Maybe Shakespeare always meant to write a sequel – maybe he did pen one – maybe it’s lost! Questions, questions – the Bard never fails to get you talking!
Basically it’s an exuberant comedy which explores the power of love over reason and Gregory Doran’s witty and elegant production is certainly an enjoyable romp.
It is also certain to have good audiences, not necessarily because it’s a chance to see a rarely performed play, but because of one David Tennant in the cast. He plays Berowne, one of the charming and witty noblemen, in what must be quite a relief from the brooding of Hamlet! And he does so with style and panache delighting an audience packed with his fans who only know him as Dr Who and those who know that he was acting at the RSC well before he set foot in the tardis! But note to some Tennant fans: It is NOT necessary to laugh at absolutely everything he says, just because he has an amusing expression on his face! Although when he and his fellow noblemen, Sam Alexander (Dumaine), Tom Davey (Longaville) and Edward Bennett as Navarre dress up as Russian Cossacks to woo their ladies, they are all genuinely laugh out loud funny!
Tennant is delightful throughout, but this is most definitely not a one man show. The ensemble cast are just that, and look as though they are having a whale of a time to boot!
But special mention must go to Joe Dixon who brought the house down as the lovesick Armado and his servant Moth, played by Zoe Thorne. They were hilarious and, as Mr FB pointed out, as a duo they bore a striking resemblance to the Krankies, although after looks, the similarity ended. This pair were funny. The Krankies aren’t!
The elegance came from the ladies including Mariah Gale as a sophisticated Princess of France and a beautiful Nina Sosanya as Rosaline, who with an air of graceful feistiness proved the perfect partner for Tennant’s Berowne. It just felt weird that at the end they weren’t all matched up to live happily ever after. The characters are told to wait for one year – as an audience we have had to wait over 400! But that’s just the play. Shakespeare is not always perfect, but his comedies are a laugh when brought to life on stage like this and this one is fandabidozee! Well worth missing "Strictly" for - and we got home in time for Match of the Day!