LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST: William Shakespeare.
RSC: Courtyard: Stratford Upon Avon.
Information and booking: www.rsc.org.uk
Runs: 3h, one interval, till 15 November.
Review: Rod Dungate, 8 October 2008
I don’t think it gets any better than this.
One of the least user-friendly of Shakespeare’s comedies, in Gregory Doran’s increasingly sure hands, this LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST becomes gentle, unstrained, and genuinely funny.
Doran has acquired the knack of enabling his actors to create characters that come from within them; characters that move towards the text and embrace it with understanding, intelligence and wit. His recent productions, therefore, are rich in beautiful, sometimes, quirky characters that lock together in strong relationships. And the text is frequently revealed in ways that are revelatory.
This LOVES LABOURS LOST is no exception. The four main men may be (pseudo)-intellectual (it’s only skin deep) the play doesn’t feel like an intellectual exercise. This is helped, also, by Doran’s decision to present the play as a play. The actors are able, therefore, to mine the comedy, their relationship with us is direct, they can share jokes and whimsey with us from within their world. The feeling of play is strengthened by Francis O’Connor’s stunningly elegant, simple set and Katrina Lindsay’s gorgeous costumes (particularly for the French Court.) The play slips seamlessly into masque for the closing moments – a position we’re certain it’s been teetering on all along.
There is a feeling of unity about the production that’s completely satisfying.
The four young men who take themselves off to study are delightful. David Tennant (Berowne) creates a real casual charmer, setting himself slightly apart. His performance is accurate and intelligent, warm and sooooo cool. The women of the French Court are equally strong with an infectious and wicked sense of humour – they do, after all, have the upper hand. Nina Sosanya’s Rosaline is riveting – distant, warm, regal and human all at the same time.
Delights abound whichever way you look. Joe Dixon and Zoe Thorne are an hilarious and unlikely double act (Armado and Moth), Oliver Ford Davies bores us to laughter (Holofernes) and Ricky Champ, a hip-hopping Costard, is the sort of bad-boy you’d really like to meet. (Did I honestly say that? – I’ll deny it.)
The whole comes to a gentle, melodic conclusion with an owl flying through the night reminding us that we are all, now, much the wiser.
Ferdinand: Edward Bennett.
Berowne: David Tennant.
Longaville: Tom Davey.
Dumain: Sam Alexander.
Don Adriano de Armado: Joe Dixon.
Moth: Zoe Thorne.
Princess of France: Mariah Gale.
Rosaline: Nina Sosanya.
Katherine: Kathryn Drysdale.
Maria: Natalie Walter.
Boyet: Mark e.
Marcade: Keith Osborn.
Holofernes: Oliver Ford Davies.
Sir Nathaniel: Jim Hooper.
Costard: Ricky Champ.
Jaquenetta: Riann Steele.
Dull: Ewen Cummins.
Forester: Robert Curtis.
Lords, Ladies, Mummers and Blackamoors: David Ajala, Samuel Button, Ryan Gage, Andrea Harris.
Owl Puppeteer: Samuel Dutton.
Directed by: Gregory Doran.
Set Designed by: Francis O’Connor.
Costumes Designed by: Katrina Lindsay.
Environment Designed by: Robert Jones.
Lighting Designed by: Tim Mitchell.
Music by: Paul Englishby.
Sound Designed by: Martin Slavin.
Movement by: Michael Ashcroft.
Company Text and Voice Work by: Lyn Darnley and Gigi Buffington.
Assistant Director: Cressida Brown.
Music Director: Bruce O’Neil.
Dialect Coach: Majella Hurley.
Casting by: Sam Jones.