Saturday, 1 November 2014

Love's Labour's Lost.

Spent a wonderful evening last Tuesday with the family seeing Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost at
the RSC Stratford Upon Avon. The play is not one I was familiar with and is one of the Bard's earlier works with what appears to be a very simple plot. However, the production is a delight. The story focuses on the King of Navarre and three nobles who determine to turn their back on romance for three years to focus on scholarly endeavours. No sooner is the vow made than the Princess of France and three ladies arrive and the men fall in love with them with hilarious consequences.

The director, Christopher Luscombe, places the action in a stately home, based on nearby Charlecote House, at the outbreak of the First World War. The production is like a cross between Downton Abbey and Oh What A Lovely War with a splash of Gilbert and Sullivan added towards the end. The sets are beautifully constructed giving a sense of real substance and history. In the background of the outdoor scenes is a simple broken fence with a few poppies growing, hinting at the more sombre wider context in which the farce takes place. The acting is, as always with the RSC, superb and some of the 'minor' characters almost steal the show, not least Peter McGovern as Moth whose singing is excellent and overall the musical accompaniment is perfectly judged. 

The play finishes on a downbeat note when the Princess receives news of her father's death and tells the King and nobles that they cannot continue their romances for a year. In this production the final scene has the men dressed in uniform saying goodbye to their fiancées, household and locals and then marching off to war. It is not as dramatic as the final moments of Blackadder IV but is almost as powerful.

There is much speculation because of the way the play ends that Shakespeare wrote a sequel to Love's Labour's Lost titled Love's Labour's Won. Of course we all know from Doctor Who that the second play was destroyed when The Doctor vanquished the witches in The Shakespeare Code. Luscombe's answer is to present Much Ado About Nothing as Love's Labour's Won, set back at the stately home at Christmas after the end of the First World War. We didn't see the second play but I can imagine it working very well and Berowne and Rosaline can easily be imagined as Benedick and Beatrice.

The morning after seeing the show we had a tour of the theatre and an added bonus was briefly meeting Christopher Luscombe giving us the opportunity to say how much we had enjoyed his production. 

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