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A Lavish and Light Love's Labour's Lost

L-R: Brandon Bassir, Luke Thompson, Abiola Owokoniran, Eric Stroud. Photo by Johan Persson.

Love's Labour's Lost, at the RSC, Stratford-upon-Avon, until 18 May 2024.

Review by Alison Manning.

The Royal Shakespeare Company’s Love’s Labour’s Lost resets this comedy about love in an exotic Pacific island setting, in a fantastically funny and entertaining production, directed by Emily Burns in her RSC debut. The King of Navarre (played by Abiola Owokoniran) and his three noble friends take an oath to focus on study and fasting, giving up the company of women, not even letting them within a mile of the palace. This is shortly before a neighbouring princess (Melanie-Joyce Bermudez) and her three lady friends come to visit, who are not best pleased to be told to camp in a field a mile away. It is perhaps inevitable that the four oath-takers are soon distracted from their studies…

Amy Griffiths, Ioanna Kimbook, Sarita Gabony, Melany-Joyce Bermudez (foreground) Photo by Johan Persson.

The marvellous set was framed around a marble-like staircase, reflecting a luxurious solid opulence, set in a rotating floor. The circularity of the staircase was echoed in a circular doorway and a central circle with palm trees. This palatial set was the centre of action and comedy. When the staircase is rotating this gives scope for comedic running round in circles, sometimes posing at the top, and exhibiting great agility from the actors running up and down the moving steps. At one point it provides places for the four male friends to hide, climbing palm trees, balancing on rocks and running up the stairs, whilst eavesdropping on each other to find out their secret loves. At another point the staircase provides scope for four different couples to spread out in a freeze frame tableau.

Luke Thompson. Photo by Johan Persson.

Although not without its serious moments, this is overall a comic play, and this comedy is joyously celebrated and expanded upon in this production.  There are hilarious interactions with the audience, where the actors are playing with them, aiming tennis balls, golf balls and golf buggies at them and awaiting their reactions. The comic timing in these moments was impeccable. The physical comedy can also be seen through the way the men’s excesses of love are demonstrated through over-the-top actions, such as dancing gracefully down the stairs with arms out wide, rolling on the floor or squealing in agony. Don Adriano de Armado, a visiting Spainard, is played humorously with flamboyance and extravagant gestures by Jack Bardoe.

Amy Griffiths, Ioanna Kimbook, Sarita Gabony. Photo by Johan Persson.

The language itself is also used to contribute to the comedy. This is a very wordy play, featuring a lot of wordplay and puns, with many characters attempting to use complex or flowery language to sound impressive, be pretentious, entertain or declare their love. In fact, this play contains the longest word in any of Shakespeare’s plays when comic character Costard utters “honorificabilitudinitatibus”.

Each male lover writes long letters or verses to their beloved, often practising reading them aloud, sometime mocking each other’s, or even their own and creating humour through the exaggeration of the jarring misrhymes, as well as often being mocked and dismissed by their recipients.

L-R: Eric Stroud, Brandon Bassir, Abiola Owokoniran, Luke Thompson. Photo by Johan Persson.

The costume choices reflect the opulence and joy of the Pacific island setting, with the vibrant pinks and purples of the more servant-like characters contrasting with the white and pale choices of the more privileged characters reflecting their luxurious, laidback, carefree lifestyles. Music is also used to create a holiday island feel, with live musicians on stage and playing during the interval, as well as extra songs being inserted into Shakespeare’s play, with a particularly entertaining one being sung by the King and his friends when they visit their prospective lovers in ludicrously lavish disguises. The play closes in an atypical way for a Shakespearian comedy and this is marked in this production by a poignant piece of music signifying a change of pace.

Love’s Labour’s Lost is on at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon till 18 May, so share in its delights whilst you can. For more information and to book tickets go to:



Sounds very entertaining.

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