Theatre

Love’s Labour’s Lost @ Shakespeare’s Globe, London



directed by
Dominic Dromgoole
I can resist everything except temptation, and there my similarity to Oscar Wilde ends. Abstinence is a virtue few possess and whatever your vices, they will seek you out a seduce you.

Shakespeare’s comedy of lofty intellect versus lusty passion, Love’s Labours Lost, explores just such themes and is given a fresh, accessible take by Dominic Dromgoole at the Globe. This tale of wit, will, grace and lyrical word play is nothing short of a love poem to the English language, tying itself into beautifully crafted rhyming couplets throughout and featuring the usual Shakespearian tropes of mixed-up identities, and letters that go astray.

Love’s Labour’s Lost recounts the undoing of the King of Navarre and his three friends, who pledge to dedicate themselves to hardcore study for three years and forsake women and bodily pleasures their minds shall banquet while the body pines. Their only source of diversion is Joe Caffrey’s excellent, priapic clown Costard and Spanish braggard Armado who are both in love with buxom maid Jacquinetta. But sticking to this vow of chastity is not easy when the Princess of France and her courtesans roll in town.

The men fall head over heels and once they have confessed their feelings to each other, they tear up their vows, disguise themselves as Russians to save face and go and woo their inamoratas all the same. The ladies are wise to their antics and switch identities so each flirts with the wrong woman. With accents like Borat, fake Rusky beards and voluminous Cossack trousers and witty jests and counter jibes, this is erudite mud slinging at its most scintillating.

The young bucks are like pack of frat boys and the women they are wooing are perfectly unforgiving and supercilious. In short they make them beg for it. Nothing has change from Shakespeare to Sex and The City, our natures are forever fixed. The eloquent banter between Trystan Gravelle’s hugely entertaining Berowne, and the quick witted Rosaline ( Gemma Arterton) is sensational. Their repartee flies off the stage.

Throughout the courting the Globe’s decorative columns are hung with cloths emblazoned with trees and the emblems of garden design extended the wooden stage, and carve out space into the groundlings. Puppets akin to those that graced the Little Angel’s stage for Venus and Adonis again created audible gasps of wonder from the audience as a near life sized deer is chased through crowds during the poignant and telling hunting scene.

The incessant word play reaches its apex in this production in the exchange between schoolmaster Holofernes and the curate Nathaniel. This is diverting if incomprehensible, and is a lyrical fight to the death which ends with the pair bowing out to present the Nine Worthies to the nobles as a form of entertainment. This mise-en-scene ends in a rip-roaring food fight but the frivolity and the couples’ happiness is shattered when news comes that the princess’ father has died.

The play is rapidly tied up from here with an ill fitting frustrating ending, which has scope to be another play in itself, as the women demand that their men folk commit themselves to certain tasks for a year to win their hand. But regardless of this Dominic Droomgoole’s has shown his Midas touch and drawn forth exemplary performances from his cast, to produce a glorious tribute to the inconstancy of the human heart and mind.



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