LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST
by William Shakespeare.
New Vic Theatre Etruria Road ST5 0JG To 18 February.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm no performance 1 Feb Mat 11, 18 Feb 2.15pm.
Audio-described 14 Feb, 18 Feb 2.15pm.
Captioned 14 Feb.
TICKETS: 01782 717962.
thenTour to 5 May 2012.
Runs: 2hr 55min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 30 January.
Broadsides meet their match until the very end.
It was twenty years ago the northern sounds and rhythmic pounds of Barrie Rutter’s Northern Broadsides first clog-danced and rough-spoke their way through Shakespeare, in Richard III, a Yorkist himself, and tyrant-hero fit for rough entertainment. Since then, alongside other triumphs and unexpected portraits, Broadsides have made Shakespeare rightful and lively in their throats; more, often, than in the most refined – like Molière in Scots, they make standard English seem lacking in a local habitation.
But this play’s difficult; a disquisition on language, plain, fancy and fancifully misunderstood. Linguistic pretensions reflect the unnatural intention of Henry of Navarre to set-up a 3-year intellectual commune ignoring women. Who then arrive, bringing reality and making the men look ridiculous as many other Shakespearean males become under perfumed desire.
And much of what emerges here is a desperately old-fashioned, unfunny production. Pastorally elegant, thanks to Jessica Worrall’s designs and colourful costumes under David Phillips’ lighting, the elegance is stillborn – even Conrad Nelson’s musical insertions, despite their intricate beauty, can’t liven matters up much.
There are a few plain inadequate performances, with cloudily-spoken lines. And a general excitability, where clarity’s lost amid generalised expressions of emotion, conversations never entered into as each character forces their lines, all accompanied by a near-hysterical belief that everything’s very funny, proving the awful rule of deadly theatre: that the more the characters are laughing and behaving as if everything’s hilarious, the more the audience sits glum and uncomprehending of what the ‘fun’ is all about.
There are happier moments, though not many – Matt Connor’s Berowne shows potential for a deeper, more truly comic portrayal, while Fine Time Fontayne and Rutter himself make a point about their characters’ dignity in the collapsing Nine Worthies Pageant.
But there’s little to grab attention – until the end. Then, as the pageant turns into a folk celebration and the sudden evaporation of feelgood factor in the script leads to the play’s melancholy close, theatrical elements combine with a brake on the dramatic pace to create a still, sad music of humanity that makes the evening, if it still can’t entirely save the day.
King Ferdinand of Navarre: Owen Findlay.
Berowne: Matt Connor.
Longaville: Jos Vantyler.
Dumaine: Kelsey Brookfield.
Princess of France: Sophia Hatfield.
Rosaline: Catherine Kinsella.
Maria: Hester Arden.
Katherine: Rebecca Hutchinson.
Boyet: Andy Cryer.
Constable Dull: Roy North.
Costard: Adam Fogarty.
Jaquenetta: Emily Aston.
Don Adriano de Armado: Andrew Vincent.
Moth: Dean Whatton.
Nathaniel: Fine Time Fontayne.
Holofernes: Barrie Rutter.
Marcadé: A Broadsider.
Director: Barrie Rutter.
Designer: Jessica Worrall.
Lighting: David Phillips.
Musical director: Conrad Nelson.
Assistant director: Andy Cryer.