Review: Love’s Labour’s Lost
A comedic success – a show perfect for the summertime
If you were – on a whim – to rank all of Shakespeare’s plays, it is unlikely that Love’s Labour’s Lost would be near the top ten. The plot is densely packed and heavily reliant on wordplay that is not instinctive to a modern audience. This is a play that has its moments but does not often bring them together satisfyingly. What makes the production at Robinson college so good is that it understands this. We are not here for the plot; we are here to laugh.
The production design is instantly evocative. Setting the play in what appears to be a 1960s beach paradise works wonders for establishing the mood. This is a production which is light and sunny. From the costumes to the props and music, everything worked together to create an atmosphere that suited the comedy of the play.
There is no denying that the characters of this play are not particularly distinguishable. We are introduced to a lot of Lords and ladies without time to learn their names. With this in mind, the production did establish distinct characters where the text was lacking. Eoin McCaul was compelling as a lead. His easy charm and affability added audience interest as to whether he would achieve his goals; he was not just a generic ‘comic’ character.
Focusing on the comedy, it was the side characters that truly stole the show in terms of performance. Bubbling with an exuberant physicality, they really seemed to be larger than life. They certainly drew some large moments of laughter from the audience.
The play’s most famous scene – the reveal that each of the Lords were surveying each other’s romantic declarations even though they had promised not to fall in love – was immaculately staged. Utilising the environment for full effect, Berowne climbed one of the lighting rigs and raised a cheer from the audience as they looked up.
The ‘nine worthies’ scene – in which the comedic side characters dress up as historical figures and are humiliated by an audience of the nobles – was well timed. With the nobles sitting at the front of the audience, their interactions seemed genuine rather than forced. This was vital for achieving the scene’s full comedic effect as the tension between the on and off-stage actors felt real. It was a culmination of just the right level of overacting and strong comedic timing.
There did seem to still be a few minor issues with scene changes that dragged out, but this did not detract from the overall momentum of the play. This production did not transform Love’s Labour’s Lost into a masterpiece, but it did highlight strong production design and comic acting.
At the end of the play, the lovers each make a promise to wait a year before they marry. I would personally not recommend waiting that long to see this play before the labour of love its cast has produced is lost.
Love’s Labour’s Lost is showing tonight at Robinson College. Book your tickets here.
Feature image credits: Lola Walters