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Sunday, 16 August 2015

Heartfelt Love's Labour's Lost

Love’s Labour’s Lost, by William Shakespeare
Directed by John Caird
Designed by Patrick Clark (set & costumes), Michael Walton (lights), Peter McBoyle (sound), Josh Schmidt (compositions)

L-R: Andrew Robinson as Longaville, Mike Shara
as Berowne, Sanjay Talwar as King Ferdinand, and
Thomas Olajide as Dumaine. Photo by David Hou.

There is a reason Love’s Labour’s Lost is not staged more often; of all Shakespeare’s plays it probably takes the most work to thoroughly enjoy.

This is because most of the comedy comes not from the plot (four men take three-year vow of monastic life in order to study; vow immediately tested upon arrival of four beautiful ladies) but from its very intricate wordplay; wordplay that is refined in Shakespeare's later plays such as Much Ado About Nothing.

Arguably only those who have studied the text well will get the most out of the mischief and meaning contained therein. For fans of rhetoric – the good stuff, not the cheap imitation employed by modern politicians – Love’s Labour’s Lost is pure gold. The problem is that most people in its audiences won’t have had time for such study before seeing it.

The good news is that director John Caird has done his utmost to clarify the text. Of the three Love’s Labour’s Lost produced at Stratford in the past fifteen years, it is by far the clearest.  He has truly capable cast to thank for this, too.

L-R: Sara Afful as Rosaline, Ruby Joy
as the Princess, John Kirkpatrick as
Boyet. Photo by David Hou.
Leading the way are Ruby Joy as the Princess of France and Mike Shara as Berowne. The Princess and Berowne are not in love with each other, but the two actors playing them certainly convey a love of the play’s language. Ms. Joy is magnetic as the Princess; there is a weight to her performance that helps anchor those around her. Mr. Shara plumbs emotional depths not necessarily associated with the rakish Berowne, depths that make the lovers’ final parting – and the men’s promised penances - more meaningful as a result.

Juan Chioran as Don Armado and Josue Laboucane
as Costard. Photo by David Hou.
Ms. Joy and Mr. Shara are ably assisted by Juan Chioran as the love-struck, aged Spaniard Don Armado; Mr. Chioran creates a character who is utterly charming and full of wonder, and keeps him from being quite foolish, as Armado has often been portrayed. Similarly Tom Rooney takes the pedantic character Holofornes and turns him into a mercurial (and somewhat lecherous) linguistic nit-picker. Mr. Rooney is perhaps one of only two actors currently at Stratford who could take the cumbersome lines of Holoforenes’ and rattle them with such a concise flair that they sound almost normal (the other is busy taming a shrew this season).

Brad Rudy as Dull (foreground), Brian Tree as
Nathaniel and Tom Rooney as Holofernes.
Photo by David Hou.
The story is further clarified with some sweetly melancholic music from Josh Schmidt, and illustrated by Patrick Clark’s beautiful, crumbling garden set and sumptuous cavalier-like costumes, making this production a feast for the eyes as well as the ears and heart.

"Jack hath not his Jill," Berowne laments at plays end, but that our hearts go out to the separating lovers is a testament to the love that has gone into creating this production.

Love's Labour's Lost continues in repertory at the Festival Theatre until Oct. 9th.





1 comment:

  1. Yep you are right, this is one of Stratford's finest technical achievements in recent years, pulling off a really compelling version of this tricky but oh so rewarding play.
    The Toronto Star review gets it, the Globe and Mail's was- er dumb.

    ReplyDelete

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