Fantastic Spaniards, Long lazy days and more beautiful men than you can shake a stick at.

Love’s Labours Lost. RSC Courtyard Theatre, Stratford upon Avon. Oct 30 2008.

I posted a very enthusiastic epistle about David Tennant before in a review of Hamlet. Leaving aside the fact that in my obsessive Shakespeare viewing I went to see this again (there were tears as you would expect and due chiefly to the fact I had left my hanky at home I was wiping clumps of mascara away with my scarf) after an afternoon of tragedy I was looking forward to an evening of merriment.

Oh my.

It was a particularly beautiful play with the stage set with mirrored backdrop and a shiny stage, covered with a large tree and viridian, reds, emeralds and ambers of Perspex hung from the flies signifying the trees’ leaves. Spread across the stage were velvet throws and cushions and nonchalantly thrown onto stage came our four heroes resplendent in white and gold silks, all except Berowne (Yes yes, the fabulous David Tennant) who swaggered in blue velvet.

The play opened with visual richness and closed in the same way with a rich indigo bathing the stage in swathes of light as several golden lanterns twinkled and dimmed away into the dusk. Berowne and Rosaline stood at the front of the stage looking distantly at one another as a snowy owl swooped majestically across the front of the audience. It was lovely.

I am not sure I can explain on words how much I laughed during this play. Now, confession time, Love's Labours is actually a bit of a favourite. Don Armado, the fantastical Spaniard is one of my favourite characters ever; he is both ridiculous and silly but with a sincerity and humanity at heart that makes him rather joyous. It is reassuring to see the ludicrous Holofernes and Sir Nathaniel, as it is always good to know that academics have forever been faintly absurd. Berowne is of course the thinking woman’s man (Cue the Shakespearean boyfriend game) and there is some verse which is truly lovely (When love speaks, it makes the heavens drowsy…from women’s eyes this I derive...)

However the fact that I like the play aside, this was a joyous production. The ever dependable Joe Dixon (who did a fab turn as Oberon not so long ago) was exceptionally funny as Don Armado. There were a great deal of flamenco flourishes and mispronouncing of words for comic affect. His comic timing was excellent and he barely had to walk on before I dissolved into fits of giggles.

The sparring between Rosaline and Berowne was flirtatious and undeniably compelling, with a delicious tension developing through the play. Berowne's flirtatiousness was decidedly pronounced and Tennant carried it off with aplomb.

Edward Bennet as the Prince of France was a mixture of pomposity and quivering wreck which created an interesting contrast and was particularly entertaining.

There were so many set pieces which were funny I would be here quite some time to describe all of them; the revelation around the tree, Don Armado’s arousal by the milking churn, Holofernes worrying interest in pretty milking maids, Costard's rap- I could go on. Special mention I think needs be made mention of the Russian disguises; accents so patently bad it was a wonder anyone believed them to be convincing. Now if you do not know the play you may think this a criticism. However the poor Russian accents are all deliberate parts to laugh at the four forsworn young men. Berowne’s attempt mangled the sounds of words so that ‘faces’ became pronounce ‘faeces’- not a way to woo the ladies. One accent verged on Borat, another was pure Sean Connery in The Hunt for Red October, whilst the fourth couldn’t even manage it ending up as a third rate Indian accent. Vey funny indeed.

Now a personal highlight for me – and yes as I recount this I am still grinning slyly- was the interaction between the stage and the audience. Now for anyone who has been to the courtyard theatre or who has fallen in love with thrust stages you will know what I mean. When fortunate enough to sit the front you can look directly into the eyes of the characters, drawing you in to a level which is utterly engaging. So finding myself fortunate enough to be in the front I was already enjoying the level of interaction when Berowne (Yes that’s right, a perennial favourite of mine, Mr. Tennant) actually spoke a part of his soliloquy at ME. Yes…me. It was a not too complimentary description of women, but hey- I was OK with that. Especially as after the required level of eye contact for me to dine out for a couple of years at least I was in receipt of a delicious wink.

I love thrust stages: Roll on the New Stage at the Royal Shakespeare theatre!!

This was a very very funny production and was a fine piece of ensemble casting. A wise friend of mine advised me this would be a very entertaining evening if I left my ‘critical theorist’ hat at home I did and it was. To be fair I could probably have got some mileage out of it with the critical theorist’s hat on.

And if not who cares? David Tennant winked at me!


belle said…
You were winked at? Am so jealous. But then did he touch your knee ...?

Fab review, wholeheartedly agree! This is not a play I know well, so I had the added delight of not knowing how it ended. Simply wonderful!
Jules said…
Hello there @beele' he did nt touch my knee! Sounds didtinctly like a Victorian moment of naughtiness...was there alos a flash of ankle???!!

Popular Posts