LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST
by William Shakespeare
Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park In rep to 22 August 2001
Runs 2hrs 40mins One interval
Tickets 020 7486 2431
Review Timothy Ramsden 20 August
Open air Shakespeare catches the joys and woes of love.
It’s summer in the park but there’s an autumnal tinge to the walls secluding the King of Navarre’s palace in Kit Surrey’s design. This fits a play which hangs between summer and winter, innocence and experience.
The first is shown by the King and his scholar chums who lock themselves away to study. Benedict Cumberbatch plays the monarch with the smiling confidence of sheltered youth. His every simile sounds something learned as an academic exercise. Only Adrian Shiller’s Berowne has a realist’s stance and voice.
Experience arrives with of the Princess of France and her companions. Plus the locals, who are themselves lost in their fantasticated vocabulary. Christopher Godwin makes the funny foreigner Don Armado more funny by being not too foreign from his first entry kissing a tattered dishcloth belonging to the dairymaid Jaquenetta. Alison Crowther knows her limits, smiling blankly as she’s praised, apart from a scowl when she’s called a virgin.Paul Kemp’s swain Costard has a Dickensian energy not far distant from this production’s Regency setting. Tim Kightley’s Holofernes, a teacher overdosing on verbal pedantry is splendid, parading in his academic robes like an explosive penguin. He’s clearly as used to speechmaking as his sidekick, John Conroy’s curate, is to being his weary audience.
Director Rachel Kavanaugh also makes clear the locals’ pageant of the Worthies is the predecessor to the Dream‘s Pyramus and Thisbe but with a harsher stage audience, working off their own recent embarrassments. Kightley and Godwin, as their victims, are dignified and have the last laugh, standing between the nobles as they are finally parted.
If there’s a problem with the production it’s that the women visitors are over-giggly and do not prepare for their mature behaviour in the chilly close. But it’s a small limitation in a joyful and moving evening.