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Love’s Labours Lost (Susan Elkin reviews)

It’s a very symmetrical play. And in the hands of director Marnie Nash for Unfolds Theatre the symmetry comes through strongly in a succinct, pared down 75-minute version. An accomplished cast of seven tell the story of three men who eschew the company of women for three years only to meet – guess what? – three enchanting women. It’s a famously deferred (or denied) happy ending and Shakespeare allows the trio of elegant, witty, intelligent women to retain the upper hand and makes the men look daft.

Nash makes nice use of the Rose Playhouse’s small, platform like playing space allowing the cavernous archeological site behind it to form a three dimensional back drop so that it feels as if we’re in the open air. And I like the way characters lean over the railings and gaze into the distance as if on a country estate. She sets the play at some point in the mid 20th century – women in pillbox hats with little veils and fishnet seamed stockings.

Joshua Jewkes delights as Berowne. He is sardonic, another Benedick in his initial rejection of the prospect of marriage, brighter than either of his fellow chaps but, of course, duped as easily as they are. And Jewkes makes it very clear that something has changed and he really is deeply drawn to Michelle Barwood’s engaging Rosaline. He is also excellent at staying in role – marching off stage muttering very effectively and appropriately.

Angus Castle-Doughty is fun as Longaville, presented here as pretty dim and a bit of a liability. Castle-Doughty has deliciously silly, expressive feet. Alec Bennie is suitably earnest as the King and moderately funny as Don Armado and there’s a strong performance from Nicholas Delvalle as Costard who more or less glues the unlikely plot together. Delvalle doubles as an engaging Boyet in a big moth-eaten fur coat too.

Jordan Leigh Harris has a magnificent speaking voice and deploys it well as Maria and Jaquenetta. Julie Cheung-Inhin is imperious as the French Princess when she needs to be but readily collapses into naturalistic giggles with the other women when the men aren’t there. It’s impressively plausible.

This Love’s Labour’s Lost is an enjoyable show but do wrap up warmly. It’s a chilly venue.

First published by Sardines:

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Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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