Love’s Labour’s Lost

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre is located about 230 metres from the site of the original amphitheatre, that which was built in 1599 by Shakespeare’s own company of players. Today’s modern playhouse is fairly accurate in its reconstruction – a simple stage, the yard for the groundlings below, and three tiers of benches, balconies and boxes – and most, but not all, of the plays performed are works by The Bard himself.

The charm of the Globe is in its open air, its cheap standing room tickets and its efforts to remain true to the substance and form of the plays as they were written and performed in Shakespeare’s time. It’s not to everybody’s favour, but it is to mine, and so I was to a completely fun and entertaining night out one Wednesday to see Love’s Labour’s Lost, performed and enjoyed under clear autumnal skies.

To my shame, my disgrace, my dishonour, I have never read nor seen Love’s Labour’s Lost, and so going in I knew nothing of its story and glory. What I did know was that I had absolutely enjoyed my first comedic Globe performance (As You Like It), and so with that happy memory in mind I was looking forward to forging a new one.

As with any sort of entertainment – fantasy, sport or even love – you need to be able to look past those realities that stand in the way of your enjoyment of the thing. After all, it is for enjoyment that you have arrived to see the play or match or movie, and so to harp on about the unnatural language, the barbarism or the unlikelihood that the pretty girl could fall for the geeky guy would be to bite your thumb in entertainment’s face.

To suspend reality and embrace the occasion is critical in the enjoyment of a Globe evening. But to make things easier for the audience in such endeavours, the cast, or crew, or troupe, are so gotten into character, and so obviously enjoying it, that it is no great stretch to transport ones self back to the time that your immediate environment seems to suggest you have stumbled upon.

As for the play itself, I was again (as before) actively engaged and heartily amused. I found the script to be genuinely funny – but then I am a fan of too many words and this is a wordy play even by wordy standards – but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the physical comedy of the piece; so puerile, so childish, so infantile and so juvenile. Even Shakespeare, it seems, is neither above nor beyond a good fart joke. Nor several pertaining to the horns of men. Indeed, the play was of a far more sexual nature than I had expected, though playfully so – almost embarrassedly and apologetically – throughout.

Much of the play’s comedy, that which isn’t derived from outwardly enacted sexual innuendo, is riddled and befiddled in so many words as are befitting and befuddling to the cause. That is to say, much is said where less could have been, but more is better and most is best, so long as the words are well and well chosen, and add more than they detract to and from the enjoyment of the piece. And if peace be quiet then this be disquietening, and the better for it. For no peace, cod or otherwise, is much or long kept in the lost labour of love and love’s hangings on. You get the idea.

A brief word, if such is possible, on the characters. The melancholy, but not sad, Don Armado was a downcast delight. His constantly furrowed brow and quivering lips gave more power to that which he did not say than that which he did. But when he did speak to say, his accent was so perfectly pitched and his phrase so terrifically turned, that you waited bated on his next words. The ‘posterior of the day’ will feature regularly in my own banter henceforth.

The king and his companions made fun of their plight, their quest and their selves in what was a touchingly bro-mantic relationship. The combination of swagger and delicate yearning for affection (both comically overplayed to just the right degree) made for much laughing, with and at, the poor deprived.

There was hardly a drab moment to make an example of. This was another fantastic evening’s entertainment, and it has confirmed, fixed and established me as a fan of The Globe and of the shows they put on there.

For a play so full of words, so many of which are perfectly played upon, the final line is brilliant in its brevity. And so, I can only hope, will mine be.

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