Love’s Labour’s Lost at West Yorkshire Playhouse – LSRFM Arts

In Theatre Reviews on November 4, 2012 at 3:12 pm

Northern Broadsides celebrates its 20th anniversary with a thoroughly original and musical rendition of Shakespeare’s comedy Love’s Labour’s Lost that will leave you with quite enough jovial guffaws to last the rest of the night. The extremely talented cast randomly pull out a violin, double bass, ukulele, flute, guitar, glass bottles and beautiful harmonies to intersperse the plot with exotic songs dances of the Latino, Russian and maypole style. The production exercised perfect comic timing. Looking up and around the audience and seeing that every member had a smile plastered across their face, meant that it really was very funny. Hilarious, even. Surely, in this bizarrely romantic, mischievous and randomly quite depressing play, that intersperses lads banter with heart-aching declarations of love, the death of the King of France and an uncertain ending, Shakespeare definitely lost concentration towards the end of completing it. Or got merry on ale.
The play sees the King of Navarre and his three dashing, young scholarly aristocrats take a vow of celibacy for three years to concentrate on their studies. The witty and cynical Berowne has the foresight to see that this plan just isn’t going to work. Naturally, with the convenient arrival of the Princess of France and her three, beautiful ‘mad wenches’, they all instantly fall comically in love. The lads spend the majority of the play being teased and pretending to each other that they are most certainly not in love. Even Berowne surprises himself as his sarcastic armour is no match for the bullying, outwitting and humiliation that Rosaline provides, and they fall the most quixotically, desperately and hopelessly in love of all. For those who easily lose track of who’s who, in the process of working out which two scholars and wenches are the negligible character-foils that Shakespeare so generously loved emplotting, the lovers’ costumes are colour coordinated. Matching potential sexual conquests and lovers to their waistcoats, capes and even their brogues is a clever way of visually mapping the lover’s labour throughout the play. Especially when the characters selfishly think it would be hilarious if they swapped clothes. Northern Broadsides uses the same set throughout, leaving the audience to suspend disbelief and place themselves outside the King’s court the whole time. Since the acting, musical numbers and general hilarity are all so good, it works.
The humorous sub-plots act as the comic glue to the relentless love story. Don Adriano de Armado tries and fails to woo a country wench, Jaquenetta who resembles something out of Shamless, his sidekick Moth the dwarf, who is not so affectionately dubbed the ‘imp’ and also ‘Hercules’ is forced to wrestle with a plastic snake and Costard, the country idiot all partake in the typical Shakespearean play-within-a-play banter and are subject to justified bullying by the King and his boys.

After all, nothing quite beats a Shakespearean insult – especially in a northern accent. Leaving the West Yorkshire Playhouse with the likes of ‘most pathetical nit’ and ‘you whoreson loggerhead, you were born to do me shame’ up your sleeve, is worth the whole two and a half hours. This fast-paced battle of wit and the sexes still bears relevance today in every Tiger Tiger dance floor across the country where such blatantly obvious flirtatious teasing is evidently inspired by Love’s Labour’s Lost. Except with a few less clothes, higher heels, less PG-friendly chat up lines, and bucket loads of vodka. The play abounds in sophisticated wordplay and a hilarious set of puns that makes it a puzzle for the audience, in a hilarious game of love and language.


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