The Mancunion

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Review: Love’s Labour’s Lost

Love Labour’s Lost and Much Ado About Nothing have been paired sharing the same cast and set on different nights, after watching Love Labour’s Lost Jennifer Sterne argues that the impact of their pairing would be more effective if shown as a double-bill


Love’s Labour’s Lost was an outstanding adaptation of Shakespeare’s comedy, capturing the wit and intricate ways in which words are twisted and played with, which the play is so famous for, wonderfully.

Despite the complexities of the plays references and clever wordplay, the play never felt inaccessible, credit for which should go to the cast. The acting wonderfully captured the various levels of tone the play goes through from slapstick humour to in-depth explorations of what it means to be in love, and how language expresses it.

Other than the exploitation of the power words, the plays main plot line, for those not familiar with it, follows the the forsaking of earthly pleasures in order to concentrate the mind on studying. Students will probably find the dilemmas of the plot resonant, as the main characters struggle to balance their desire to study with other seemingly more powerful desires.

The set design which had been built to mimic an Edwardian English manor house in the midst of summer seemed to have a character all to itself. The movement of set, with the inner rooms of the manor house sliding backwards as the scenes of the princesses party of women locked outside the house appeared on the stage, heightened the sense of the two worlds of earthly pleasures and study colliding.

Nigel Hess’ score dominated much of the play, largely to great success. The music of the play was integral to many of the scenes and helped to set the shifting tones of the play; however it felt that at times the musical segments were expanded beyond necessity. This was particularly true of the ending which while remaining true to the original script ended with a song, seemed to unnecessarily linger.

The intention of this prolonged ending, with the actors staring out into the audience was perhaps to heighten an awareness that the play is not in fact over, that final promise of reunion between the lovers in ‘twelvemonth and a day’, is ‘too long for a play’, which is why the play is believed to be paired with ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ or ‘Love Labours Won’.

This idea is being tested on the stage as both plays are brought to the Opera House, with the same company of actors playing in both performances, on the same Edwardian set. By presenting both plays together has enabled the cast and director to explore hands on the ways in which they speak to each other.

It is hard however to pass judgement on whether this match effective without watching the paired play. The idea that the play’s pairing is an empirical test of the hypothesis that Much Ado About Nothing, is another name for the lost play, and sequel to Love Labour’s Lost, Love Labour’s Won, is difficult to judge. Without having the two plays consecutively played on one night, it is difficult for those who do not attend on both nights to decide whether the similarities suggested are there.

That is not to say I cannot see where the plays do overlap, particularly in respect to the wit and sparring nature of the relationships presented; however if the plays have been produced to reflect each other in tone an style, it is hard for those other than the actors and the very committed theatre goers to view it as a double-bill.

Perhaps if it had been performed as such, abridging both plays, to create an extended double-bill of the two, the intended speculation that the two plays are closely connected or that Much Ado About Nothing is in fact Love’s Labour’s Won, would be made more potent and accessible