Love’s Labour’s Lost
30th October 2008
I keep wanting to say that is an ordinary production….. but that isn’t true. In fact, in many ways, the production is extraordinary. The stage design, the colours, the movement are all of a very high standard indeed. I don’t even get to say that David Tennant was either extremely good or extremely bad. His performance as Berowne is run-of-the-mill, no better, no worse, albeit very good in parts.
I think, and nothing on Thursday night changed my mind, that Love’s Labour’s Lost is a slight play. It finishes without telling us the end of the story and consequently, is unsatisfying. The plot is not the best or the most convincing. On the other hand, in terms of language, it has an expressive and extensive dictionary of words which Shakespeare bends to its service. Where it has strengths, it is in its humour coupled with a very clever use of words. The words cannot be wasted if you’re going to make a successful production of this play.
It is, therefore, very puzzling indeed, that the director and some of the actors have decided to wrap some of these words in the broadest and most faux-comedic accents you have ever heard. Considering Joe Dixon’s Don Adriano De Armado, who does a Spanish accent which would have been more at home in TV’s Mind Your Language back in the 1980s than in Shakespeare, and Tennant, Tom Davey, Sam Alexander and Edward Bennett in Russian disguise (in one scene) and accompanying preposterous voices, I realised that half of the humour in the actual plot was made unintelligible as the cast managed to dig out jokes based on mispronunciation which would have done the Carry Ons or Benny Hill proud.
Having said this there were some fine acting performances. Zoe Thorne as Moth, Armado’s page, did fine work as a boy which carried a irony all of its own. The 4 suitors, when not in Muscovite garb, delivered their parts well. Riann Steele as Jaquenetta had presence to accompany her beauty.
So a number of strengths to match some bizarre acting and directorial decisions. I think the directorial decisions carried the day, particularly in making the final speeches lose their significance and weight as they emerged out of the disorganised cacophony of the preceding scene where the “humour” finally lost its way and wound up in a cul-de-sac.
The peculiar thing was that this felt like a good time and good fun. But I suspect that this was achieved by director, Gregory Doran failing to correctly measure the strengths of the play and we lost more than we gained.
Tom Daley as Longaville, Sam Alexander as Dumaine, Edward Bennett as Ferdinand, King of Navarre and David Tennant as Berowne