Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, Shakespeare’s Globe – until 15 September 2018
Love’s Labour’s Lost had me at ‘Hello’. A solitary figure enters in complete darkness with a single candle and sits on a box centre stage. A haunting score accompanies the rest of the acting company as they file on and slowly, gracefully, light the remaining candles that illuminate the action for the remainder of the production in this wonderfully atmospheric theatre.
The excellent score (by Laura Moody and James Fortune) – a pastiche of different forms – is a particularly strong element to the production. You could literally see the audience collectively tilting forward with beatific smiles on their faces, blissfully unaware of the chaos about to be unleashed upon them.
In Shakespeare’s early comedy the King of Navarre and his friends forswear female company for a period of three years in preference for abstinence, fasting and study. Before anyone can so much as pick up a quill, the Princess of France arrives and, after a touch of leg shaving and bra padding, the main protagonists fall in love amid a theatrical maelstrom.
I was concerned that the first half of director Nick Bagnall’s production was in danger of falling on its own stylistic sword. The effect of Moth being played as an invisible foil to an already hyper-camped Don Armado (Jos Vantyler) risked unbalancing the entire show.
The production already has a youthful, end-of-year drama school feel to it. Most of the actors being afforded the opportunity to wriggle around the stage, slip in a front cloth moment, don a funny wig or jump into the auditorium. In fact, the front row of the audience was utilised so much by the acting company, I half expected them to stand up and take a bow at the end.
No opportunity for innuendo is left unused. King Ferdinand at one point emerges from crouching behind a female audience member and declares “I’ve been hiding behind this bush”, gesturing at the mortified lady and wringing howls of laughter from the house.
Nevertheless there is much to be admired in this production, not least the energy and dynamism of the actors, in a beautiful Velázquez-inspired design by Katie Sykes.
A poised and well-spoken King of Navarre (Paul Stocker) makes a credible counter to the nerdy yet effective Princess (Kirsty Woodward).
Dharmesh Patel’s Berowne handles the linguistic cut and thrust well and engages with soliloquy, and Jade Williams is a very appealing Rosalind.
But for me the acting laurels go to Charlotte Mills for her impish and delightful Boyet, full of spark, verve and energy.
By the end the wheel comes full circle. The same solitary figure is sitting mournfully on the box centre stage while the acting company extinguish the candles to a heart-breaking musical accompaniment.
This is altogether good fayre and definitely a crowd-pleaser. Michelle Terry’s tenure at The Globe continues to gallop confidently forward with this romp of a show.