Love’s Labour’s Lost/Love Labour’s Won
LOVE’S Labour’s Won has been the subject of much scholarship and debate down the years, and has even featured in an episode of Dr Who. Many now believe it to be Much Ado About Nothing renamed, and among those is RSC Artistic Director Greg Doran, who has been sure enough to run it alongside Love’s Labour’s Lost.
So, audiences have the chance to make up their own mind. In truth, director Christopher Luscombe’s parallel productions with the same cast, are unlikely to settle the debate either way.
But that is hardly going to bother audiences presented with two sparkling warm-hearted productions overflowing with laughter and moments of eye-watering poignancy.
Set in a Warwickshire country house – the Gatehouse at Charlecote Park forming the main backdrop will be familiar to many a local – the plays bookend the First World War, with LLL opening proceedings in the summer before the outbreak of war, and LLW following in the winter following the end of the conflict.
The wordy esoteric LLL was among the most unpopular works in the canon for centuries, but has found a new lease of life in recent decades.
This joyous and inventive LLL makes light of the difficulties, and here actually outshines the better known comedy of LLW/Much Ado in the laughter stakes. The RST has not rocked with so much laughter since its revamp as when the King and his companions’ love for the ladies is revealed on the rooftop.
And catching the audience off guard, tears of laughter are replaced by welling eyes as the four Jacks without Jills
head off to the Great War at the close.
LLW, which starts at the end of a war, takes a little while to get into its stride, but is equally impressive and inventive once fully up and running.
Edward Bennett and Michelle Terry head a faultless cast as the sparring lovers in both plays – Berowne/Rosaline and Benedick/Beatrice.
Composer Nigel Hess and designer Simon Higlett both make massive contributions.
Music and song runs throughout both productions, from the Gilbert & Sullivan pre-war operaetta setting of LLL’s Nine Worthies presentation, to the Noel Cowardesque post war piano ditties of LLW, with everything from patriotic marches to period dance crazes inbetween.
The set is a lavish visual feast in true Downton Abbey tradition – which surely made the onlooking Hugh Bonneville aka Lord Grantham feel very much at home – modelled on nearby Charlecote, and employing the RST’s technical wizardry for switches from outside to inside with effortless ease.
All concerned with these productions should be very satisfied with a job very well done. While it may not settle any scholarly debate, both productions are surefire crowd-pleasers.
Both plays run until March 14. Visit www.rsc.org for tickets and further details.