Love's Labours Lost

William Shakespeare

Shakespeare's Globe

(2007)

Review by Philip Fisher

Dominic Dromgoole has chosen to direct this wordy comedy himself and, possibly accepting that the work is not the Bard's finest, helps him along with slapstick and visual gags, injecting sexual innuendo at every opportunity.

Jonathan Fensom's setting drapes the stage in hangings showing tree limbs and extends into the Pit or, in this case, "The King of Navarre's Park". This extension features dual walkways that form a cross and prove effective for confrontation and dalliance across a divide at the midpoint with the groundlings all around. To add to the attractive impression and period feel, the leading actors are all gorgeously and shinily accoutered and Claire van Kampen has provided music that complements the action.

The plot is simple and very contrived, seemingly there purely to provide opportunities for punning and love-making. Ferdinand, the King of Navarre makes three of his pals enter a pact guaranteeing that they will forsake women for three years. No problem, if the trio weren't as randy as hell before they even started.

Kobna Holdbrook-Smith's King is supported by a handsome, rather goofy Welsh Berowne (Trystan Gravelle doing well in the role); William Mannering's comic Longaville; and David Oakes playing Dumaine.

Soon enough, their mettle is tested and found wanting by female counterparts led by the excellent Michelle Terry playing a mischievous, feminist Princess of France. Her team is led by Gemma Arterton, soon to be seen in very different mode starring in the new St Trinian's remake, as Rosaline in whose mouth butter wouldn't melt. Cush Jumbo and Oona Chaplin (Charlie's Spanish granddaughter) as Maria and Katherine make up the heart of a very young central cast.

Much fun is had by all, as the women toy with the silly fellows before an ending three hours later in which multiple marriage is promised but even then delayed.

The posh types are balanced by a crew of comics. Joe Caffrey is the pick as clowning rustic, Costard, in love with a lusty, busty dairymaid, Jaquenetta (Rhiannon Oliver), who is also the object of passion for an overly-absurd Spanish nobleman (Timothy Walker). He in turn is aided by Seroca Davis cross-dressing as Moth, a little boy who sings and plays his part in some of the better jokes of the evening.

Finally Christopher Godwin and John Bett play a pair of learned oldies who speak a lot of Latin and had the misfortune to find most of their speeches drowned by aircraft noise - such is Globe-al life.

This production sets out to get as many laughs as possible and doesn't do too badly on that score though the three hours feel rather long as irrelevant sub-plots drag.

However, this light comedy with much audience interplay and visual humour should prove popular with typical Globe audiences who will probably not be theatre regulars and may have English as a second language, if that.

This review ends with an apology. Due to a mix-up over tickets, the play was viewed from a location known as The Gentlemen's Room. This is not a polite name for the toilet but a first storey box at ninety degrees to the stage. Regrettably, the pillars supporting the canopy block a surprising amount of the mid-stage fun in a very visual production and, with several actors struggling to project, some of the poetry was inaudible.