Love's Labour's Lost 2006

Maria Rebecca Smart and Rosaline Lucy Black (Photo: Alan Moore)

23rd March - 29th April 2006

Director's Note

  Love’s Labour’s Lost is the miracle child of an unlikely marriage between literary artifice and sheer theatrical know-how and instinct.  It is enormously difficult to read – linguistically and grammatically dense, crammed with sophisticated flights of Elizabethan fancy and bawdy double entendres, and framed in complex rhyming schemes that frustrate many a well-meaning attempt to ‘tweak’ the language to the modern ear.
  But immediately it is given to actors to command, it shows what a shrewd master of comedy Shakespeare was.  Though elsewhere he pursues the complex plotting he and his contemporaries learnt from Plautus – think of Twelfth Night or The Comedy of Errors – here he has the confidence to weave a world of experience into the very simplest of designs.  Four young men, rashly vowed to learning and self-denial, meet four young women and attempt to woo them.  With minor elaborations, and the background canvas of a rural community, that is the plot.
  Within it we get a comedy of sexual politics that can with ease shift forward nearly three hundred years and still illuminate the eternal debate between male and female.
  And its famous conclusion remains one of the most surprising, and well-achieved of any in the genre.


Navarre Jonathan Gunning   
Longaville Jacob Dylan Thomas  
Dumaine Philip Buck  
Berowne Matthew Thomas 
Servant & Forester Jonathan Bower  
Dull Peter Townsend 
Costard Tom Sherman   
Armado Paul Currier 
Moth Eric Jay
Waiter Adam Moore     
Jacquenetta Siobhan McMillan    
David Collins     
Princess Saskia Portway      
Katherine Catherine Hamilton  
Maria Rebecca Smart   
Rosaline Lucy Black  
Holofernes Roland Oliver 
Nathaniel Jonathan Nibbs
Marcade Andrew Hilton


Director Andrew Hilton
Associate Director & Editor Dominic Power
Assistant Director John Rolph
Set & Costume Design Vicki Cowan-Osterson
Costume Supervisor Rosalind Marshall
Lighting Designer Paul Towson
Composer Elizabeth Purnell
Production Photographer Alan Moore

Production Manager Jonathan Yeoman
Stage Manager Jayne Byrom
Deputy Stage Manager Eleanor Dixon
Assistant Stage Managers Adam Moore & Jonathan Bower
Costume Laundry Kim Winter


The Guardian
March 28, 2006
* * * *
  A play about the heart that is almost entirely played out trippingly on the tongue, Shakespeare's comedy is one of the few plays for which he came up with the plot himself, rather than drawing on established sources. From this, we might infer that plot was not one of Shakespeare's strongest points, for little actually happens in this tale of the King of Navarre and his courtiers, four serious-minded young men who decide to withdraw from the world, choosing scholarship over sex for three long years. But no sooner have they decamped to the forest than along comes the Princess of France and her ladies.
  This is a young man's play in every way; a glorious mixture of studied teenage affectation and puppyish romp. It is very silly, but all the pleasure in Love's Labour's Lost is in the backchat, particularly in the wooing between Berowne (Matthew Thomas) - the most intelligent and sceptical of the King's followers - and the quick-witted Rosaline (Lucy Black), one of the princess's ladies. Rosaline, the "whitely wanton with a velvet brow", has her descendent in a later Shakespearian heroine, Rosalind, who also finds her way into the forest. But the high-flown fancy and verbal gymnastics can come at a dramatic price, as it does so often in As You Like It too.
  I have to confess that I've never seen a production of Love' s Labour's Lost that I've wholly enjoyed. Until now. One of director Andrew Hilton's strengths has always been his meticulous attention to language, and it pays dividends here in a production that has all the formality of an old-fashioned dance and all the soppy playfulness of first love. Lines that fell to the ground with a dull thud in other productions, here dance off the characters' tongues. So much so that when Berowne berates his fellow lords for their foolish lovesickness, the audience gives him a round of applause as if he was a skater who had just performed a particularly daring feat. The rest of the cast rise to the occasion too.
  It is undoubtedly the case that this unsubsidised Bristol outfit offers the most consistent and enjoyable programme of Shakespeare in the country. Lyn Gardner

The Sunday Times
April 02, 2006
  Andrew Hilton’s enchanting production takes place on a completely bare stage. For part of the second half, the actors are treated for a while to three park benches and a garden chair.  This means there is nothing for them to fidget with or lean on except acting; and in this sweet, autumnal comedy of style, language and manners, full of taffeta phrases, silken terms precise, this is a real challenge. That is what Shakespeare and his colleagues had to do most of the time, and I think they would have been impressed by this production. Jonathan Gunning (King) and Matthew Thomas (Berowne) lead the men, slightly pompous and silly, but likeable chaps who have some lessons to learn. The Princess (Saskia Portway) is regal and ironical: she needs a little more fire. Lucy Black’s Rosaline gets that right, making clear she’s a match for anyone. Paul Currier ignores the darker, sadder side of Armado, as well as the fact that he’s a nobleman and really quite cultivated. Also, he speaks with an Italian, not a Spanish, accent. The ending, suddenly dark and moving, doesn’t always work as it should. Here it does. John Peter

The Stage
27 March 2006
  This is the 12th offering by the award-winning Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory since the company was launched by Andrew Hilton in 2000. Sadly, severe losses from the previous production of Titus Andronicus may well mean it will be the last.
  Fresh financial backing is the only realistic hope of rescue; potential new sponsors cannot fail but be impressed by Hilton’s delightful and at the end bitter-sweet, telling of how a king and his three courtiers, intent on casting aside earthly pleasures, are defeated in the game of love by four enchanting young women. The production is particularly adept at uniting those much-repeated Shakespearean themes of high jinks at court and low comedy in the country.
  Here there is a bravura performance from Matthew Thomas as a worldly yet smitten Berowne, surely the prototype for that later sophisticate Benedict, matched by Lucy Black’s mischievous Rosaline and contrasted by the more regal approach of Jonathan Gunning (King of Navarre) and Saskia Portway (Princess of France).
  Unusually, the rustics also capture the mood of sophisticated verbal wit and speak the verse with as much authority as anyone, with Roland Oliver’s schoolmaster Holofernes anything but the dull pedant he sometimes appears to be and Tom Sherman a knowing clown of a Costard. The one real outsider, the fantastical Spaniard Don Adriano de Armado, is played mainly as a figure of fun by Paul Currier, but he too becomes almost a tragic-comical figure at the compelling end. Jeremy Brien