The Royal Shakespeare Company’s 2014 production of Love’s Labour’s Lost, directed by Christopher Luscombe, is a brilliantly conceived and executed adaptation of Shakespeare’s early comedy (planned, as the trailer below shows, to be paired with Much Ado About Nothing, which many consider to be the play referred to in a couple of lists of Shakespeare’s plays as Love’s Labour’s Won).
The Downton Abbeyish setting–1914 at Charlecote Park, an English estate not far from Stratford–was inspired. The staging was brilliant, from beginning to end, from the opening scene in Charlecote’s library to the hilariously played rooftop scene and beyond.
In Love’s Labour’s Lost, unlike Shakespeare’s later plays, the male parts are the more interesting (though he does make them the butt of the joke at every opportunity) and the men rise to the challenge (led by Edward Bennett’s perfect portrayal of Berowne). I always wish the disguises in plays that are otherwise meticulously crafted for modern audiences would disguise better, and that was the case in the final scene. But I loved the twists and tweaks given to the play, such as turning secondary characters into household staff, and equipping Dumain with a teddy bear in one scene, to great effect. And Nigel Hess’s music–with an inserted lyric by Shakespeare’s friend Michael Drayton and a Gilbert-and-Sullivan setting for The Nine Worthies–was delightful.
I enjoyed the performance on the DVD, which also included extra features, such as the director’s commentary and an interview with the designer, Simon Higlett.