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This Shakespeare comedy has been updated in this production by the Royal Shakespeare Company, and is set in 1914, which allows the show to pay respects to the hundred year anniversary of World War I.  The story revolves around the King of Navarre (Sam Alexander) and his three companions Berowne, Longaville and Dumaine (respectively, Edward Bennett, William Belchambers and Tunji Kasim), who all agree to swear off the company of women for three years, in order to concentrate on study and fasting.  However, their plans go awry upon the arrival of the Princess of France (Leah Whittaker) and her three companions, Rosaline, Maria and Katherine (respectively Michelle Terry, Frances McNamee and Flora Spencer-Longhurst).  A battle of the sexes ensues, with the play eventually ending in a poignant scene, which gives cause for reflection.  There is also a subplot featuring the visiting Don Armado (John Hodgkinson), a Spanish visitor, who falls for a local lady named Jaquenetta (Emma Manton).

I really loved this production.  Apart from the fitting and respectful ending (where – spoiler alert – the Princess is informed that her father has died, and she and her ladies in waiting inform their suitors that they must wait a year before their courtships can continue, and which ends up with the four men appearing in World War I uniforms, about to go off and fight in the war), there was so much humour and verbal sparring, with several laugh-out-loud scenes that had the audience in fits of giggles.  The King and his friends were so well portrayed, and the Princess and her companions perfectly matched to them.  (I love how Shakespeare wrote so many strong and intelligent female characters).

The stage was beautifully and cleverly designed and the costumes were gorgeous (I had serious gown envy during the final part of the play!)

Love’s Labour’s Lost is presented as one part of a diptych, together with Much Ado About Nothing (retitled here as Love’s Labour’s Won, which was the name of a lost Shakespeare play – possibly Much Ado).  I have tickets to see Love’s Labour’s Won next year, and I am really looking forward to seeing it.  (In that play, the four main male characters are returning from World War I.)  Edward Bennett plays Benedick, opposite Michelle Terry’s Beatrice, and having seen the chemistry between them in this production, it promises to be a great show.

Overall, an excellent evening of comedy, with excellent acting and staging throughout.  Thoroughly recommended.

(For more information about this production, please click here.)

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