The first ever production at the Globe of Love's Labour's Lost brings the parterred formality of the Spanish court to Bankside's bearpits.
It should be a comedy of high aspirations to chastity and learning corrupted by the lower instincts of sexual desire and the games people play in love; indeed the delightful introductory scenes of deer in the forest alert us to the mating season.
Sadly the young actors collected here by Dominic Dromgoole manage to mangle their clever, punning, alliterative speeches and speak so fast it is hard to follow their meaning of the torrent of words.
They play it for humour (some of the audience on press night seemed ahead of the jokes) but major on vulgarity rather than tenderness.
The three young aspirational noble friends of the King of Navarre (patchily played by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith) are outwitted by the desirable ladies of the retinue of the Princess of France (Michelle Terry). They come to seek a financial settlement for Acquitaine, which is soon lost in clever badinage as love takes over their minds and hearts.
The other characters unfortunately only intermittently succeed in delighting. The vain braggart Don Adriano (Timothy Walker), sucking up to the King, gives a change of pace but seems overplayed. His lively page, Moth (Seroca Davis), teases but there are too many words for quick understanding.
The schoolmaster Holofernes (Christopher Godwin) and curate Nathaniel (John Bett) continue the word games, demonstrating that the more elaborately contorted their language the less we learn.
The production is saved by the elegant Elizabethan costumes (Sarah Bowern) and Claire van Kampen's band. The final songs of the owl and the cuckoo are beautifully done and should somehow tie everything up, but leave the question 'what was it all about?'
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