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Review: Love's Labour's Lost, Royal Shakespeare Theatre - contemporary touches adds a freshness

RSC love's labour's lost posters 2024

Love's Labour's Lost, starring Luke Thomson, is the play that got me back to Stratford. It's been years since I jumped on a train to the West Midlands as it's become more of a faff since direct trains from London were ditched (such an idiotic decision).

Was it worth the journey?

Director Emily Burns has brought a contemporary freshness to Love's Labour's Lost. It's set in a luxury, exotic resort where Ferdinand, King of Navarre (Abiola Owokoniran), Berowne (Luke Thomson) and two other friends have signed an oath to study, fast and stay away from women for three years.

Even the Princess of France (Melanie-Joyce Bermudez) and her three ladies are not permitted beyond the grounds where the King insists they meet. However, this permitted 'off-site' doesn't stop Ferdinand falling in love with the Princess, Berowne falling for Rosaline (Ionna Kimbook) and Longville and Dumaine falling for the other two ladies.

Secret wooing, disguises and mistakes with letters ensue.

The contemporary resort setting works well with servants and courtiers becoming spa staff. There are sun loungers, golf tees and a tennis coach. Stripping away the court puts the focus on the men's behaviour. It also fits with the sassy way the women out-wit them and put them in their place.

Shakespeare's text is peppered with modern phrases, making it sound all the more familiar. It helps elevate the humour in Shakespeare's text; the play on words can easily feel alien or of its time.

There is inventive physical humour: A dodgy rendition of a Boys To Men song performed in full knight's armour is a particular highlight. The staging is clever with a good use of a revolve (and palm trees), making an 'eavesdropping' scene particularly enjoyable.

The women are smart, and the men are arrogant chumps. The story ends satisfyingly, which is something you can't always say about Shakespeare's romantic comedies and that in itself makes it feel modern.

It is bookended with the Princess, ending on a poignant note rather than a frivolous song, giving it more depth.

It was definitely worth the journey from London to Stratford, and I'm giving it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.

Love's Labour's Lost, Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford Upon Avon

Written by William Shakespeare

Directed by Emily Burns

Starring: Luke Thompson, Abiola Owokoniran, Melanie-Joyce Bermudez and Ionna Kimbook

Running time 2 hours and 45 minutes, including an interval

Booking until 18 May; for more information and to buy tickets, visit the RSC website.

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