A losing battle

20 June 2008

  Lizze DavisLove’s Labours Lost   

Queens’ College, 2 stars.

The labour of wits for a lost cause, BATS’s production of Shakespeare’s eclectic and satiric comedy Love’s Labour’s Lost, exploring the triumph of love over learning, tried very hard to gain applause, but never quite hit the mark.

Entering Queens’s Cloister Court, with its timbered walls open to the sky, felt almost like a step back in time to Shakespeare’s Globe, that is until the entrance of the King of Navarre (James Walker) dressed rather incongruously in suit and a boater, shattered any period feel that the setting generated. The flamboyant awkwardness of his opening speech, praising the virtues of devoting three precious years to academic endeavours, set the tone for a play that attempted wit and bravura yet fell flat. His overdramatic delivery made him audible, however, unlike significant parts of the civil war of wits between him and his ‘bookmen’ and later with the French ladies, in which victory was gained by the word swallowing wind.

From the start, Biron (Adam Hollingsworth) stood out from the other three would-be scholars, as he should, his darkly comic biting wit eclipsing their ridiculous bravado. This was maintained in his battle of wits with his love Rosaline, (Stephanie Bain) whose spark and vitality matched his word for word. Owen Holland’s Don Adriano de Armado, with his mock Spanish accent and ludicrous love melancholy drew laughs from the audience, yet his supposedly comic scenes with Moth (Molly Goyer Gorman) limped along in a rather unfunny manner, Moth’s rapid retorts marred rather than embellished by her cheeky somersaults, and the audience’s attention was lost in the ‘sweet smoke of rhetoric.’

The first half stuttered to a halt, but after the interval the performance gained new energy, half-discovering the comic spirit that was lacking before. Particularly delightful was the scene in which the would-be scholars accidentally revealed their loves, done in audible, beautiful verse, or else skilfully sung as Dumaine (Finn Beames) did. The ‘bookmen’ fully realised the comic potential of the aside, as snide comments emerged from bushes and each lord’s hypocrisy was humorously revealed.

The final transition from mirth to melancholy with the news of death and departure, created a sincerity that was otherwise lacking, successfully emphasising the play’s satiric message of the shallowness of wordplay and intellectual language. Yet the audience couldn’t help agreeing with Biron’s closing words on the lover’s wooing, ‘that’s too long for a play,’ as the final song brought this valiant attempt to a close. Love’s Labours Lost   

Queens’ College, 2 stars.

The labour of wits for a lost cause, BATS’s production of Shakespeare’s eclectic and satiric comedy Love’s Labour’s Lost, exploring the triumph of love over learning, tried very hard to gain applause, but never quite hit the mark.

Entering Queens’s Cloister Court, with its timbered walls open to the sky, felt almost like a step back in time to Shakespeare’s Globe, that is until the entrance of the King of Navarre (James Walker) dressed rather incongruously in suit and a boater, shattered any period feel that the setting generated. The flamboyant awkwardness of his opening speech, praising the virtues of devoting three precious years to academic endeavours, set the tone for a play that attempted wit and bravura yet fell flat. His overdramatic delivery made him audible, however, unlike significant parts of the civil war of wits between him and his ‘bookmen’ and later with the French ladies, in which victory was gained by the word swallowing wind.

From the start, Biron (Adam Hollingsworth) stood out from the other three would-be scholars, as he should, his darkly comic biting wit eclipsing their ridiculous bravado. This was maintained in his battle of wits with his love Rosaline, (Stephanie Bain) whose spark and vitality matched his word for word. Owen Holland’s Don Adriano de Armado, with his mock Spanish accent and ludicrous love melancholy drew laughs from the audience, yet his supposedly comic scenes with Moth (Molly Goyer Gorman) limped along in a rather unfunny manner, Moth’s rapid retorts marred rather than embellished by her cheeky somersaults, and the audience’s attention was lost in the ‘sweet smoke of rhetoric.’

The first half stuttered to a halt, but after the interval the performance gained new energy, half-discovering the comic spirit that was lacking before. Particularly delightful was the scene in which the would-be scholars accidentally revealed their loves, done in audible, beautiful verse, or else skilfully sung as Dumaine (Finn Beames) did. The ‘bookmen’ fully realised the comic potential of the aside, as snide comments emerged from bushes and each lord’s hypocrisy was humorously revealed.

The final transition from mirth to melancholy with the news of death and departure, created a sincerity that was otherwise lacking, successfully emphasising the play’s satiric message of the shallowness of wordplay and intellectual language. Yet the audience couldn’t help agreeing with Biron’s closing words on the lover’s wooing, ‘that’s too long for a play,’ as the final song brought this valiant attempt to a close.