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Love’s Labour’s Lost

By William Shakespeare

Northern Broadsides

The Lowry, 17 April 2012

The ladies looking none too impressed. Photo by Nobby Clark.

One apostrophe denotes possession, the other contraction: so much for the grammatical intricacies of the title of the play.

It’s a comedy containing a cornucopia of courtships (well, four or five) and was also, incidentally, Harold Bloom’s favourite play.  In Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human he praises the play in particular for its language – its poetry, wordplay and rhetoric (all those ‘figures pedantical’ that Shakespeare most likely culled from Puttenham) – and here it is placed at the service of love.  His suitors, and especially Berowne (an excellent performance by Matt Connor in this production) are sophists, though the game is to win a lady not an argument.  And just as the sophists in olden days were  not too concerned with truth, nor do they – the suitors – make a big song and dance about fidelity.  There’s little wonder then that the gentler gender seek a deferment, to test their suitors’ affection.

This is a vibrant production of the play that would satisfy even Bloom himself.  There is the comedy, and here I would pick out the performances of Andrew Vincent (as Armado) and Adam Fogarty (Costard) in particular and the moment when Longaville’s (in person, Jos Vantyler’s) pockets seem to teem with manuscripts, a slue of scrawled sonnets.  This last was one of several comic details that enhanced the text no end.  The music and songs were spot-on an’ all.

And the sets and costumes were wonderful to look at, a colourful extravaganza you couldn’t peel your eyes away from.  It was a joyful experience withal and you went away with a better understanding and appreciation of Shakespeare’s great talent.

 Love’s Labour’s Lost is at The Lowry until Saturday 21 April, details here.