Review – Love’s Labour’s Lost
Love’s Labour’s Lost is one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known plays, but Sport For Jove have brought it triumphantly to life in the first show of their Summer Season.
It is a play that is rarely performed in this country, as Director Damien Ryan explains in his program notes. It is incredibly verbose and has vast passages of text talking about text, but its plot is unique, and the conclusion is unexpected. The play tells the story of the King of Navarre and his group of friends who have forsworn the company of women entirely for three years, on pain of being shamed in front of the entire court. Along comes the Princess of France with her ladies, and (predictably) chaos ensues.
“It is the women who rule this play,” Ryan says, and that is true insomuch as the female characters hold the power. They vehemently reject the use of the word “fair” in relation to themselves, and demand more from their men than praise and material goods. But while the female cast were strong, it was the men who dominated.
Berynn Schwerdt was exquisitely funny as Don Adriano De Armado, the gallant Spaniard who falls in love with a wench. Schwerdt flounced ridiculously about the stage, stomping and salsa-ing, with a comedic skill that was sophisticated and detailed. Aaron Tsindos, as Don Adriano’s right hand man, gave a master class in making the most of a small character (although he did get a chance to shine in Shakespearealism – more on that later). James Lugton as Holofernes was delightful, truly rejoicing in his scholarly duties. Lugton’s handle on the text is superb, and he gave a lovely performance. Tim Walter was a passionate Biron, and his struggle to rationalise love was moving and thought-provoking. He dealt with lengthy passages of text extremely well.
As for the women, collectively they were delightful. Emily Eskell as the Princess was headstrong and commanding, and was supported well by her ladies-in-waiting. Together they had some lovely moments of girlish abandonment. But Gabrielle Scawthorn as Longaville was the standout. Ryan has changed the gender of Longaville; a choice, he says, which is “inspired by Shakespeare’s own context.” Scawthorne’s entertaining performance, and Ryan’s direction, makes total sense of this change, and it does not seem out of place. The choice is a very clever, very relevant one.
The entire production oozes energy from the very beginning. There is a thirty-minute teaser preceding the main show, the aforementioned Shakespearealism. Written by Josh Lawson, it is an Elizabethan spoof about Ralph Shakespeare, William’s fictional brother, striving to stand on his own as a playwright. The comedy is absurd and hilarious, and all the actors (Lembke-Hogan, Tsindos, Lugton and Scawthorne) do an incredible job. It’s the perfect taster to begin the night, so get there early.
Melanie Liertz’s costumes are absolutely stunning, and perfectly elevate the production’s traditional Elizabethan style.
From beginning to end the entire evening is a delight. Ryan has created a wonderful piece of theatre, with a play that is obviously dear to his heart. Shakespeare’s text is poetic and playful, exploratory and revealing. Sport For Jove has, once again, come at us guns blazing. And although some may be unhappy with the new stage setup at Bella Vista, it should not detract when performances like these are being achieved. Do not miss it – it’s worth the drive.
Playing at Bella Vista Farm Park until December 30 then Everglades Garden Theatre from January 9 – 24.
Alana Kaye – Theatre Now
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