Labour’s Lost and Much Ado About Nothing (or Love’s Labour’s Won), which first performed in 2014 has returned to London. Playing at the gorgeous Theatre Royal Haymarket until the 18th of March 2017, audiences are in for a treat.
For those that aren’t familiar with Love Labours Lost. Shakespeare’s comedy is set in the summer of 1914. ‘In order to dedicate themselves to a life of study, the King and his friends take an oath to avoid the company of women for three years. No sooner have they made their idealistic pledge than the Princess of France and her ladies-in-waiting arrive, presenting the men with a severe test of their high-minded resolve. Shakespeare’s sparkling comedy mischievously suggests that the study of the opposite sex is the highest of all academic endeavours. Only at the end of the play is the merriment curtailed as the lovers agree to submit to a period apart, unaware that the world around them is about to be utterly transformed by the war to end all wars’.
Much Ado About Nothing or Love’s Labour’s Won is set in the winter of 1918. ‘A group of soldiers returns from the trenches. The world-weary Benedick and his friend Claudio find themselves reacquainted with Beatrice and Hero. As memories of conflict give way to a life of parties and masked balls, Claudio and Hero fall in love, while Benedick and Beatrice reignite their own, altogether more combative, courtship. Shakespeare’s comic romance (possibly known in his lifetime as Love’s Labour’s Won) plays out amidst the brittle high spirits of a post-war house party, as youthful passions run riot, lovers are deceived and happiness is threatened – before peace ultimately wins out’.
Both productions set either side of the First World War in what has to be one of the most spectacular sets, I have ever seen. A few props on stage though, made it difficult to see if you were directly in front but as the sets change, it’s easily forgotten. Music by Nigel Hess, heightens the emotions of each play and brings Shakespeare into a modern age that audiences of all ages can enjoy. What is even more amazing, is that the actors are the same for both plays. A tremendous feat which I for one, was suitably impressed. But then again Shakespeare’s finest dialects doesn’t roll off my tongue as easily as they do the leads, Edward Bennett (Berowne in Love’s Labour’s Lost and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing) and Lisa Dillion (Rosaline in Love’s Labour’s Lost and Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing’. In fact the entire casts’ comedic timing, soulful singing voices and exceptional acting skills bring much laughter, warmth and depth to Shakespeare’s finest comedies. Characters such as Don Pedro from Much Ado About Nothing, are often played quite dry, yet John Hodgkinson conveys and demands a stage presence that is not easily forgotten.
I was much more familiar with Much Ado About Nothing which many scholars consider to be Shakespears’s lost play ‘Love’s Labour’s Won’, than Love’s Labour’s Lost. Given this, I enjoyed Much Ado About Nothing, a lot more. Plus the romance between Benedick and Beatrice, has a much happier ending than poor Rosaline’s and Berowne’s. In fact all the lover’s in Love’s Labour’s Lost do not receive their happily ever afters, an unusual ending for comedies based on the wooing of young lovers. Then again Shakespeare did write Romeo and Juliet, so an unhappy ending shouldn’t have been too big of a surprise for me.
Playing at the Theatre Royal Haymarket until the 18th of March 2017, book your tickets now for two 5 star plays or like Benedict you’ll ‘have such a February face, so full of frost, of storm and cloudiness’.
Reporter: Tegan LeBon
Twitter and Instagram: @toogs1
THEATRE ROYAL HAYMARKET: Haymarket, London SW1Y 4HT
020 7930 8800