Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Mini review of "Love's Labours Won" at RSC Stratford

Love’s Labours Won - Royal Shakespeare Company- directed by Christopher Luscombe

I rarely risk RSC productions at Stratford-upon-Avon in this post modern age - not least due to the cost of getting there and staying overnight. Happily, I was sent for a conference to the Midlands so I stayed over in Stratford, feeling fortunate to get a ticket for "Love's Labours Won".

I'm pleased to say that this production has restored my faith in the great theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon whose world class standards were famous in the past. It is the perfect place to enjoy Shakespeare's plays.

In this production there were many scenic transformations, including a stage which moves up and down and slips backwards and forwards. The elaborate, beautiful set perfectly suggests Charlecote, a National Trust manor house, near Stratford.

The play normally known as 'Much Ado About Nothing' is set in Messina, Sicily during the Renaissance. This version is played moves the drama to Christmas 1918 in an English country house when it is still a makeshift World War 1 hospital. This is meant to allude to the world of Downton Abbey, the popular ITV drama.  Maids in black and white support elegant young females, in the latest silken London fashions. 

The most memorable aspects about this production are:
  • specially composed music by Nigel Hess played live - apparently using a grand piano on stage, in the 1930s romantic style for Shakespeare lyrics such as “Sigh no more ladies, men were deceivers ever” and “Come live with me and be my love”. It even has a hint of early jazz. As Christmas tree lights glow, elegant young people dance in evening dress, singing Shakespeare’s words to charming music and something in Shakespeare (and oneself) ‘comes home’. Linking Shakespeare’s comedies to English country houses seems quite right, to me. 
  • the actress who plays Hero - she is beautiful in her perfect hairdos and 1930s finery. She is supposed to be ‘ordinary’ compared with Beatrice in the eyes of Benedick - but the reverse seems true. 
  • Dogbery, the comic watchman, is dressed as a First World War policeman in blue with gold buttons - a reminder of silent movie farce in which police were often "fools".
  • male nobles of the Renaissance are conveyed in the accents of the English upper class military during World War One.  That catches their male hierarchy, perfectly. 
Love’s Labours Lost (its real title) is paired with this production of Love's Labours Won (Much Ado) also directed by Christpher Luscombe. They are acted on alternate evenings, using the same actors and sets. I would recommend seeing them - but the run of both of them finishes this week.

 I’m going to try to access the music- there might even be a CD. If so, it is a new additional to my small collection. 

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