An About Face

November 26, 2010 at 3:21 pm (Film Adaptations, Love's Labour's Lost, Shakespeare's Plays) (, , , )

I’ve changed my mind. I like Love’s Labour’s Lost now. It’s been months since I posted about it, but I really disliked this play before. I found it so pretentious and annoying, all the characters seemed smarmy, overly-wordy and self-important. Blech.

It’s all changed now. I watched Dominic Dromgoole’s production of Love’s Labour’s Lost from Shakespeare’s Globe and all is well. I couldn’t be more surprised at how this video of a stage production at London’s Globe Theatre could change my perspective on this play. This passage from the notes that accompany the DVD explain the difference:

During the play, Shakespeare makes fun of pedantry and pompousness, of wordiness and worthiness and of academic posturing in general. Any literary dons that recognise none of themselves in Love’s Labour’s Lost are at best unsporting and at worst obtuse. But anyone new to Shakespeare, perhaps worried about being confused or intimidated by the language, would probably not be grateful for the play’s obscure allusions, knotted wordplay and long passages in Latin. A good production, then, must ensure that such qualities are presented as the butt of the joke, rather than crucial pieces of plot. This, thankfully, is the approach taken by Dominic Dromgoole’s production, and it plays no small part in the production’s success.

All I can say is three cheers for Dominic Dromgoole! Instead of getting weighed down by the wordy wit and wordplay I found myself just enjoying the farce of the situations and the wonderful silliness of the characters.

The cast of zany characters in this play really shines. Costard (played by Fergal McElherron) is over-the-top fun throughout the play. This take on Costard whispers to me of Michael Keaton’s bizarre portrayal of Dogberry in Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing. But where Keaton’s Dogberry seemed to me distractingly weird, McElherron’s Costard seems on the money. I get a big kick out of Costard’s scene about remuneration (the money he takes from Don Armado for delivering a love letter to Jacquenetta). I had seen the scene analyzed in Playing Shakespeare, where it was an example of the Elizabethan love for words and language. Great fun!

Dull (played by Andrew Vincent) is sincerely (to great comic effect) dull. Don Armado (Paul Ready) is hilariously goofy. Boyet (Tom Stuart) is a nosy sycophant, often dismissed by the princess with an eye roll. And I love the princess here (portrayed by Michelle Terry)–her strong personality shining through in every scene.

What’s lost in this production? The pedantry. And good riddance! The silly banter between the boys making their oath to study and give up food, sleep and women for three years is hilarious! The ridiculous conversations between Holofernes and Nathaniel are dealt with lightly — they are a minor part of the show and there is no labour lost worrying about what the heck they are talking about.

Unfortunately, I think some of the banter between Berowne and Rosaline is also lost here. I don’t see much chemistry between the two in this production. I like Trystan Gravelle’s Berowne, but I find Thomasin Rand a bit mechanical in her delivery of Rosaline’s lines, and the interchanges lose their sizzle.

Speaking of mechanical, the play within the play here, The Nine Worthies, is really funny. The set up is very like the set up for the mechanicals’ production of Pyramus and Thisby in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (an ironic twist that the supposedly-learned Halofernes, Nathaniel and Armado are among the “rustics” made fun of here). As with P&T, there is much heckling of the players from the royal audience. It’s very funny and ends in total chaos here, with wrestling and a food fight.

I thoroughly enjoyed this production. It’s great entertainment, the staging is fun and imaginative, the set is simple, but lovely, the costumes are luscious, the music beautiful. If you’re looking for a good video representation of Love’s Labour’s Lost, look no further. It’s not on Netflix yet, but is available on Amazon and eBay. Enjoy!

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