Monthly Archives: October 2014

Emotional roller coaster in a stately home – Love’s Labour’s Won or Much Ado About Nothing

Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, 03/10/2014 – 14/3/2015 Even if weren’t true, it is a wonderful idea: Shakespeare’s Much Ado as the sequel to the unsolved troubles of Love’s Labour’s Lost. The characters fit almost seamlessly, even if the names vary, and this is just the continuation one was longing for after enjoying the “first episode”. The consistency in ensemble, stage design and music rounds director Chris Luscombe’s tandem production into a bubbly romantic complete story. At the end of Love’s Labour’s Lost, the men went to fight in the First World War, in this, better known play, they have returned and they are trying to rebuild their lives.

Michelle Terry (Beatrice) and Edward Bennett (Benedick)

Michelle Terry (Beatrice) and Edward Bennett (Benedick)

We find them at Christmas time 1918. Beatrice (Michelle Terry) has been through tough times as a VAD nurse and she is trying to come to terms with new realities through increased snappiness, whilst her somewhat more delicate cousin Hero (Flora Spencer-Longhurst) only too happily seeks refuge in the arms of Count Claudio (Tunji Kasim). Claudio is, for today’s audiences, a character that is rather difficult to understand, but Tunji

Tunji Kasim (Claudio) and Edward Bennett (Benedick)

Tunji Kasim (Claudio) and Edward Bennett (Benedick)

Kasim draws him so boyishly cute when it comes to romance, defencelessly aggressive in the play’s cruel scenes and thoroughly shaken by fate, that he becomes recognisable in the 21st century. Edward Bennet, who previously conquered the audience’s hearts as Berowne, now creates an unforgettably wonderful confused Benedick: His eavesdropping scene from behind the giant Christmas tree is a safe bet to cause sore laugh muscles.

Edward Bennett (Benedick) and Harry Waller (Balthasar)

Edward Bennett (Benedick) and Harry Waller (Balthasar)

Sam Alexander, as Benedicks frustrated brother, the sinister Don John, skilfully drags the emotional waves back down to shivering suspense. However, the roller coaster effect is guaranteed: Shakespeare’s play-within-the play is gloried in to ecstasy point, the scenes with the night watch and the police station might harm the odd eye make-up. The innumerable wonderful little ideas keep generating tumultuous slapstick fun. Nick Haverson here plays the part of the yattering Constable Dogberry and he just accumulates highlight on highlight. With hilarious officious pomposity and lovingly, yet screamingly funny vulnerability, complete with a tragicomic tic, he controls the audience relentlessly – absolute master class.

(At front) Tunji Kasim (Claudio), Jamie Newall in centre (Friar Francis) and Flora Spencer-Longhurst (Hero), with company

(At front) Tunji Kasim (Claudio), Jamie Newall in centre (Friar Francis) and Flora Spencer-Longhurst (Hero), with company

Many of the smaller parts shine through similar attention to detail. David Horovitch is a destroyed father-of-the-bride Leonato, Jamie Newall a fine, warm-hearted Friar Francis, Emma Manton and Frances McNamee delightfully funny ladies-in-waiting, moreover Chris Nayak as the dubious servant Borachio (fabulous RSC debut), the wonderful Chris McCalphy as Sexton, Peter McGovern, Oliver Lynes and Roderick Smith as the other watchmen and, and, and … great ensemble theatre. Balthasar, Antonio’s son, does not contribute much to the plot, Harry Waller, however, is more than that. In this part, he assumes a major musical function, singing and playing the piano.

Edward Bennett (Benedick) and Michelle Terry (Beatrice) – in centre, with company

Edward Bennett (Benedick) and Michelle Terry (Beatrice) – in centre, with company

Nigel Hess’s wonderful music weaves through the entire play and is sure to remain a lasting memory. Set design: Simon Higlett. Best watched in sequence, but also individually a treat! Photos by Manuel Harlan © RSC   also posted in German under http://artyviews.wordpress.com/2014/10/27/gefuhlsachterbahn-im-herrenhaus-loves-labours-won-gewonnene-liebesmuh-oder-viel-larm-um-nichts/

Dance on the edge of the abyss in Love’s Labour’s Lost

Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, 23/09/2014 to 14/03/2015
A carefree world – Four young men of noble birth, spared by all menial worries, spend their days training their quick wit and excelling in puns and rhetoric. They plan gaining a better understanding of the world by withdrawing from it.

L-R – Edward Bennett (Berowne),  Sam Alexander (King of Navarre), William Belchambers (Longaville)

L-R – Edward Bennett (Berowne), Sam Alexander (King of Navarre), William Belchambers (Longaville)

An oath of asceticism is sworn for 3 years: no pleasures and definitely no women within the castle.
Shortly afterwards, four equally well born ladies make their appearance. Although they are being lodged at a certain distance, threads soon start spinning by themselves.

In this winter season, for the first time, the RSC shows Love’s Labour’s Lost in direct combination with Love’s Labour’s Won, long considered to be one of Shakespeare’s lost plays, nowadays, however, often assumed to be in fact the play Much Ado About Nothing. This tandem production creates a time frame around the days immediately before and after the First World War.
The amazing set, designed by Simon Higlett, transports the audience to the stately manor of Charlecote near Stratford, a place well known to William Shakespeare, as it was here that he was caught poaching.
The King of Navarre, played by Sam Alexander as a man of disarming naivety, is not a person to have the last word, neither with his entourage nor even for himself.
Amongst his three friends, Berowne is the only one seemingly able to use common sense, however, he displays a hilarious lack of emotional intelligence. Edward Bennet owns his character. He makes him an irresistible cynic who virtually calls for a controlling female hand.

Love_s Labour_s Lost 2014 production photos_Photo by Manuel Harlan _c_ RSC_LOV-49

Edward Bennett (Berowne)

Longaville (William Belchambers) and Dumaine (Tunji Kasim), just as the other two, stumble into the pitfalls of their own feelings. The four protagonists create an unbeatable highlight the turret scene, a firework display of comedy in which they make a last attempt at dissembling their enamouredness.

Love_s Labour_s Lost 2014 production photos_Photo by Manuel Harlan _c_ RSC_LOV-184

Michelle Terry (Rosaline)

Amongst the ladies, Leah Whitaker represents the Princess of France as a distinctly more mature and self-confident person than her male counterpart.
Michelle Terry, as Rosaline and thus Berowne’s flirt partner, keeps sparks flying while generating magnetism. We are allowed a first glimpse at the traits that will return with Beatrice in the “sequel”, Love’s Labour’s Won.

Katherine (Flora Spencer-Longhurst) and Mary (Frances McNamee), the other two ladies-in-waiting, rob the gentlemen’s senses with ease.
The ladies are accompanied by Lord Boyet, the Princess’s equerry (Jamie Newall, what an extraordinary voice!) and Marcadé (Roderick Smith).

Love_s Labour_s Lost 2014 production photos_Photo by Manuel Harlan _c_ RSC_LOV-141

L-R – Frances McNamee (Maria), Michelle Terry (Rosaline), Jamie Newall (Boyet), Flora Spencer-Longhurst (Katharine)

At less gentrified level, too, life is bubbling. Don Armado (John Hodkinson), a Spanish guest, competes with Costard, the gardener (hilariously funny: Nick Haverson) for the dairy maid Jacquenetta’s (Emma Manton, fantastic, a hothouse of energy and wit) favours.

Love_s Labour_s Lost 2014 production photos_Photo by Manuel Harlan _c_ RSC_LOV-74

L-R – Flora Spencer-Longhurst (Katharine), Michelle Terry (Rosaline), Frances McNamee (Maria)

David Horovitch, Thomas Wheatley and Chris McCalphy provide the villagers’ comedy contributions.
As perhaps the only fully sane person of the manor, Moth, the hall boy, Peter McGovern has a smaller part, but in this production he is the one who shapes the musical side by his singing, solo and leading the ensemble’s songs.
Oh the music: Nigel Hess composed a dazzling romantic musical accompaniment to the play, performed live and conducted by John Woolf, underlining and highlighting the atmosphere, a special treat in itself.
Directed by Christopher Luscombe.
A delight not to be missed!

Photos by Manuel Harlan © RSC

also posted in German under http://artyviews.wordpress.com/2014/10/10/spielerische-gefuhlszweifler-in-loves-labours-lost-verlorene-liebesmuh/