Sparklingly funny and giddily blissful. This is, in its entirety, an endeavour that sings: poignant, impassioned and gorgeousTimes
The whole ensemble creates a theatrical tour de force, combining comedy, humanity and a wonderful feel-good factorSunday Mirror
‘We lose ourselves to keep our oaths.’
Summer 1914. In order to dedicate themselves to a life of study, the King and his friends take an oath to avoid the company of women for three years. No sooner have they made their idealistic pledge than the Princess of France and her ladies-in-waiting arrive, presenting the men with a severe test of their high-minded resolve.
Shakespeare’s sparkling comedy delights in championing and then unravelling an unrealistic vow, mischievously suggesting that the study of the opposite sex is in fact the highest of all academic endeavours. Only at the end of the play is the merriment curtailed as the lovers agree to submit to a period apart, unaware that the world around them is about to be utterly transformed by the war to end all wars.
Shakespeare’s great romantic comedies, Love’s Labour’s Lost and Much Ado About Nothing were first paired to great acclaim at Stratford-upon-Avon in 2014. This innovative doubling is now presented at Chichester in collaboration with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Matching events, characters and themes suggest that these razor-sharp romances belong together. In Love’s Labour’s Lost two sparring lovers, Berowne and Rosaline, are separated; at the start of Much Ado About Nothing (or Love’s Labour’s Won), two sparring lovers meet again after a long absence and continue to quarrel, until they are tricked into acknowledging their love.
Directed by Christopher Luscombe, with a dazzling design by Simon Higlett and glorious music by Nigel Hess, the productions are set either side of the First World War. Love’s Labour’s Lost conjures up the carefree elegance of a pre-war Edwardian summer; in post-war Much Ado About Nothing the world has changed forever, the roaring 20s just around the corner. A 22-strong ensemble company performs in both productions. Following his appearance at Chichester last year in The Rehearsal, Edward Bennett returns to play Berowne and Benedick; Lisa Dillon plays Rosaline and Beatrice.