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Love's Labours Lost

November 1st, 2008 (08:19 pm)

Getting to Stratford at 10.15 and waiting over two hours until the availability of returns reached our place in the queue was worth it. I was slightly conscious that I was one of only two men in a queue which for most of the morning numbered about twenty... I'd forgotten to stock up with cash, and was lucky that I was inheriting a child's ticket, and was travelling with the better-prepared widsidh.

What of Love's Labours Lost, as directed by Gregory Doran, and including in its company David Tennant as Berowne, Nina Sosanya as Rosaline, and Zoe Thorne as the Page, with various other Who actors in the company too? The overall impact of the production was strong, though there were a few flat performances which let down the whole, and the situations involving the humorous characters took a while to build up, or perhaps to prepare the audience.

I was reminded of Martin Clunes's television programmes about dog behaviour as shown a few months ago by this treatment of the play. The two parties of men and women are both packs, with the king of Navarre and the princess of France acting as 'enforcers' for the packs, and the alphas, Berowne and Rosaline, hanging back. It is Berowne whose decisions count in the party of Navarre, and Berowne who soliloquises, has a seat waiting for him in the audience, and on this occasion hails a teenage girl making notes, perhaps for A-Levels, her school magazine or (live in the twenty-first century, parrot_knight) an LJ post, as the model of woman, seizes her notebook, gets her to hand over the pen, and then marks her notes on stage before adding something to them and tossing pen and paper back.

This is a Shakespeare low- and high-minded at once. Armado, the Spanish nobleman, has problems with words beginning 'nob' and 'ass' among others. Jacquenetta's first appearance leaves the audience with little doubt that she is ripe for impregnation and has little other function as a character. Costard is tasked with simple duties which are nonetheless beyond his capacity. Meanwhile the competent and talented among the nobility renounce their responsibilities. For many in Shakespeare's audience a king who renounced the society of women was as good as a king who abdicated; and the European political events alluded to in the play could be readily interpreted as the consequences of dynastic failure. Only death shocks the women back into the reality of aristocratic duty, and they morally upbraid the men. We are left not knowing whether love's labour will ever be won; the ending, with Berowne and Rosaline facing each other at the front of the stage as a puppet owl swoops about them, is enigmatic; the successful union seems to be the class-defying, unitellectualised one between Armado and the pregnant Jacquenetta.

The Courtyard Theatre is an excellent venue in many ways, though the blocking of this play seemed very geometric in the most formal scenes, as one would expect, which meant that while I could admire a very fine skirt worn by one of the French ladies, I could not see the first interplay between David Tennant and Nina Sosanya. This kind of problem is perhaps inevitable when one is in the stalls watching a performance on a thrust stage. One quiet star of Stratford at the moment is the Royal Shakespeare Theatre itself, being reconstructed almost in full public view, as new forms take shape alongside the old.


Posted by: Virgers! How are we doing with those explosives? (tree_and_leaf)
Posted at: November 2nd, 2008 12:40 am (UTC)

Am rather jealous!

Incidentally, you were right about the Tube - it took me nearly four hours to get back to Oxford this evening. The lectures were thouroughly worth, it, though.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: November 2nd, 2008 01:36 am (UTC)

I'd been intending to try to see Hamlet in Stratford but never got round to it - picking a day in London and queueing there is going to be the only way, I think, now.

Glad to know the lectures were worth going to - a pity the traffic is so bad even on a Saturday, but the weather won't have helped...

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: November 3rd, 2008 02:11 pm (UTC)

He was not in a state to meet fans at the stage door after LLL - someone came out to apologise for him.

Posted by: widsidh (widsidh)
Posted at: November 3rd, 2008 07:18 pm (UTC)

Idle thought - is that notebook going to be part of Tennant-memoriabilia one day :-)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: November 3rd, 2008 09:03 pm (UTC)

I should think so, but I hope that it's treasured by its owner for a long time first. :)