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Love's Labour's Lost - Review

Making her RSC directing debut, Emily Burns, the Associate Director of the National Theatre, offers a vibrant and modern interpretation of the Shakespeare comedy, “Love’s Labour's Lost”. This production is the first for of many for the RSC’s newly appointed artistic directors Daniel Evans and Tamara Harvey and sets a high bar for what is to come.  

Love's Labour's Lost
Jordan Metcalf as Boyet and Tony Gardner as Holofernes

The play unfolds with four noble men seeking personal growth as they retreat to a detox spa in Hawaii, renouncing love and modern distractions to focus on self-improvement. The men are then tested when a princess, portrayed by Melanie-Joyce Bermudez, and her entourage make an unexpected appearance at the resort. Tasked by her dying father to reclaim land from Ferdinand of Navarre, played by Abiola Owokoniran, the princess is accompanied by her companions Rosaline (Joanna Kimbook), Katherine (Amy Griffiths), and Maria (Sarita Gabony). The men’s vows are swiftly put to the test as they each find themselves irresistibly drawn to the newcomers, leading to a whirlwind of Shakespearean intrigue — complete with disguises, love letters gone astray, and the men breaking their oaths — that sets the stage ablaze with a mesmerising exploration of love and loyalty. 

Love’s Labour’s Lost certainly lives up to its billing as a comedy, delivering plenty of laughs throughout the performance. Nathan Foad shines in the role of Costard, infusing every line with impeccable comedic timing that keeps the audience hanging, and belly laughing, on his every word. Jack Bardoe brings a fresh twist to the character of Don Armado, seemingly a Spanish tennis coach at the resort, with a physical and vocal agility that adds a layer of slapstick humour to the mix. And let’s not forget Tony Gardner’s portrayal of Holofernes, whose uproarious monologue on the pronunciation of English words in Act 2 had me in stitches — the rhythm of his delivery was simply impeccable. With these three comedic talents sharing the stage, it was difficult for the audience to decide where to focus their attention. 

Love's Labour's Lost
Tony Gardner as Holofernes and Iskandar Eaton as Moth

I particularly enjoyed the performance by Iskander Eaton, whose infectious energy lit up the stage. As a relatively young and emerging talent, Easton has enormous potential, and I eagerly anticipate seeing where his talents lead him in the future. This sentiment rings true for many members of the Love’s Labour’s Lost cast, the majority of whom are making their debut with the RSC in this show. It is exciting to see such fresh talent making their mark on the stage. 

The incorporation of on-stage musical performances to drive the narrative momentum proved highly effective. Additionally, I appreciated the understated simplicity of the set, which consisted of little more than a staircase, some deck chairs, and two pies trees on an astroturf lawn. However, the repetitive use of the revolving stage grew somewhat tiresome over the course of the performance and did little to enhance the performance. That being said, there was one stand out moment where the revolving stage sone: during the scene revealing the four men breaking their vow of celibacy. This sequence was brilliantly choreographed and garnered big laughs from the audience.  

Love's Labour's Lost
Ioanna Kimbook as Roaline, Amy Griffiths as Katherine, Sarita Gabony as Maria, Melanie-Joyce Bermudez as Princess

As a young man, I faced many hurdles when it came to appreciating Shakespeare. Like many, I struggled with the language and the idea of reading his works in a classroom setting. However, I believe that if a group of children were to attend this performance of Love’s Labour’s Lost, they would become so immersed in the physicality and storytelling that the language barrier would become almost irrelevant. In fact, I’m confident that I could have watch the entire play in Swahili and still come away with a clear understanding of the story, and still chuckled throughout. This is a testament to the work done by the entire production team, particularly those who helped the performers master their movement and characterisations. Every character was skilfully crafted and warmly embraced by the audience, making for a great theatrical experience. 

While Love’s Labour’s Lost may not top my list of favourite Shakespearean plays, nor stand as my most cherished performance at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, it undeniably offered a thoroughly enjoyable evening of entertainment. I would readily suggest it to anyone seeking an introduction to the Bard’s work or simply craving a night out with a twist. Don’t miss the chance to catch Love’s Labour’s Lost at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-Upon-Avon, with performances running until the 18th of May 2024. 

Love's Labour's Lost
Jack Bardoe as Don Armando and Nathan Foad as Costard


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