Love’s Labour

The RSC live stream of Love’s Labour’s Lost was my first experience of theatre at that cinema, and I couldn’t have enjoyed it more. The production was absolutely glorious: a beautiful set, exquisite music, and one of the wittiest interpretations of a Shakespeare play that I have ever seen.

Throughout the showing and afterwards I was reflecting on how the cast came to discover so many wonderful moments and hone their characterisations – I imagine that the rehearsal room must have been a wonderful place, brimming with creativity across a whole range of specialisms – actors, directors, musicians, composers, dancers and choreographers. I want every rehearsal room I work in to have something of this freedom and love.

I say love, since the company were clearly loving every minute of their show, and in one monologue, Shakespeare himself details the power that love can have:

“[Love] with the motion of all elements,
Courses as swift as thought in every power,
And gives to every power a double power,
Above their functions and their offices.
It adds a precious seeing to the eye;
A lover’s eyes will gaze an eagle blind;
A lover’s ear will hear the lowest sound,
When the suspicious head of theft is stopp’d:
Love’s feeling is more soft and sensible
Than are the tender horns of cockl’d snails;
Love’s tongue proves dainty Bacchus gross in taste:
For valour, is not Love a Hercules,
Still climbing trees in the Hesperides?
Subtle as Sphinx; as sweet and musical
As bright Apollo’s lute, strung with his hair:
And when Love speaks, the voice of all the gods
Makes heaven drowsy with the harmony.”

A very stirring description, which will stick with me for a long time.

The touching story of four pairs of lovers, however does not come to fruition. Apologies if this constitutes a spoiler, but the title does suggest the Labour of Love may be Lost: As with various other great stories the tone is deftly inverted from lighthearted comedy to somber poignancy, a technique which, correctly realised, makes for a very moved audience.

In line with the nice Shakespearean comedy endings the audience expects its four weddings, but instead we face the preparation for a funeral – the ladies go into mourning, and the men (in this setting), to the front in Flanders.

With the thousands of others in cinemas throughout the country (even the world) and of course those present in the RST, I went home that night with my head spinning. Reliving the comedy and lamenting the denied satisfaction of an unresolved love story.

However, I hope my fellow audience members will share with me the faith that despite this play’s denouement (more an earthquake than a hiccup), Love’s Labour will eventually, inevitably be won. Time will tell – on March 4th at a screening of Much Ado About Nothing (which is being plugged by the RSC as Love’s Labour’s Won) I hope to finally get my wedding sans funeral.

I wholeheartedly recommend this show to anyone and everyone, and I urge you to keep an eye out for future screenings (http://onscreen.rsc.org.uk).

Or if you have the good fortune being from Warwickshire, or live close by, treat yourself to some tickets (http://www.rsc.org.uk/whats-on/).

You will not be disappointed.

 

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Blog Post : Monty Python and Francis Beaumont

I’m on the tube home after seeing (for the second time) the Knight of the Burning Pestle, by Francis Beaumont at the Wanamaker Playhouse. It’s a difficult show to categorise but I think director Adele Thomas’ term “Jacobean Rock’n’roll” is as good as any.

The Actors embark on a telling of the London Merchant, but the play is interrupted by a Grocer and his wife who thrust their apprentice Rafe onto the stage and get him to insert his own scenes based on their instructions. The players join in these scenes with initial reluctance as the original narrative of elopement is interspersed with scenes of damsel-rescuing and giant-slaying. The whole atmosphere inside the Sam Wanamaker playhouse was absolutely delightful. The audience laughed, we sang along and how we applauded.

This meta-theatrical device makes for great madcap slapstick humour – frantic fight sequences and knob-gags. The concept of Knight of the Burning Pestle seemed so modern that my father thought there must have been some modern additions inserted into the text, drawing on the likes of Monty Python. Which reminded me of the recent revival the five remaining pythons brought to the O2 back in July.

From my seat right at the back of the arena I remember being very underwhelmed by performances which, when I was first introduced to them as a teenager, I found absolutely hilarious.

I had gone with expectations of reliving some of that teenage glee, but for some reason the off-the-wall silliness of Pythons live left me very cold. I assumed that my tastes must have moved on and that now, as an adult, I am far too pretentious to find such absurd humour funny, that I need something altogether more sophisticated to tickle my funny bone these days. However, tonight’s trip to the Globe showed me I can still take great delight from silly, knockabout humour. So what was the difference?

It was partly to do with the intimacy of the venues. The Wanamaker Playhouse brought out the comedy in a way that the cavernous O2 arena never could. But I found there was a bigger more obvious difference between the two experiences. The performers at The Globe last night were enjoying themselves. They loved the show (however nonsensical) and presented it with glee to their audience. The Pythons on the other hand were not excited by their material, the love with which they first wrote and recorded the sketches and songs had somehow been lost over the years. And if the performers are bored by what they are doing – then surely the audience cannot expect to be entertained.

The most important thing any performer must do, if they are to really connect to their audience, is love what they are doing. The question this naturally raises is: is it possible to find love in everything? That may be the subject for another post.