|Biron beats about the bush|
Heartbreak’s production of Love’s Labour’s Lost was a right old romp on Saturday night in the very lovely Jesmond Dene, Newcastle. I confess I was not very familiar with the play, and the plot indeed is really a mere contrivance for an entertainment featuring some of Shakespeare’s favourite themes. Misunderstandings and mix ups in love, the class system, rivalry and desire.
|Missive mix ups
This play is one of Shakespeare’s early comedies believed to have been written in the mid-1590’s for a performance at the Inns of Court for Queen Elizabeth I. The plot seems to be an original one (unusual for Shakespeare) and starts for the Heartbreak audience set in a college at Oxford. The King of Navarre and his companions are studying here and they forswear the company of women in favour of learning and fasting. Women are therefore forbidden from entering the College. We can all guess how long that lasts. Don Armado a Spanish Post Graduate fails to subscribe to this edict from the get go however, and takes a shine to Jacquenetta the refectory maid, who is also the subject of the affections of the illiterate postman Costard. The postman and his letters, of which he can neither read the content nor the name of the intended recipient, have quite a large part to play in the convolutions of the plot.
To cut a long – and rather difficult to describe story short – the three scholars fall in love with the three women who arrive from the French court of Aquitaine, and there is a lot of mixing up of letters which means the wrong messages of devotion end up in the wrong hands.
Time passes and the three men, totally forgetting the solemn oath they swore (after a short bit of conscience wrestling) decide to act on their feelings. They determine to approach the ladies in disguise, which involves dressing up as Muscovites – an obvious choice I think you’ll agree. This requires long coats, furry hats, and knitted beards and, in true Heartbreak style a lot of high energy Cossack dancing and comedic larking about to music. Will their Russian garb win the women over?
Heartbreak’s production is set in the 1920’s which gets a tad confusing when mixed with historical characters, but I found the best approach was to not to try too hard to work out what was going on and just enjoy the comedy, the music and the hilarious performances of the talented cast. Ross Townsend Green was a treat as the Spanish Don Armado with his malapropisms and his matador cape. Everyone enjoys a good double entendre. ‘Watch out for the Spaniard and his rapier! ’
The addition of the original music and songs was a definite plus to the performance. The highlight for me was the men storming in dressed as dancing Russians – quite irresistible and suitably surreal. They also seemed to get the objects of their affections mixed up because they had swapped cardigans! Another easy mistake to make I think you’ll agree.
The summer weather was its usual changeable self and we did have some rain at the beginning of the performance. We were well prepared with rain coats and umbrellas though, having consulted the ‘home and dry’ app which gives you minute by minute weather updates. The app had told us that is was going to start raining at 6.41 and indeed it started raining exactly at 6.41. Impressive technology. It is quite a challenge however to juggle an umbrella, a camera, a pen, a notebook and a pork pie all at the same time. The weather did clear up after the predicted number of minutes, and we were fortified by our picnic which was of not inconsiderable proportions, and seems to include more and more alcohol every time.
The original music and songs were a definite plus. Shakespeare didn’t write any musicals himself (none that I am aware of at any rate) but music would have been an integral part of Elizabethan entertainment and everyone loves a good singalong. The entire audience found themselves standing up and singing Jerusalem at the end of the night, which in my book is always a result.
Love’s Labour’s Lost is a comic farce of the follies and foibles of love. If you like a bit of the bard combined with music dancing and the odd unexpected entrance of a Muscovite, then this is the show for you! Check out Heartbreaks other venues over the summer at Heartbreak Productions