A light-hearted and almost frivolous play, productions of Love's Labour’s Lost almost always guarantee a blithe theatrical experience, rather than the morally or emotionally challenging experience of many other Shakespeare plays. This season’s production of LLL at the Globe is no exception. The basic, yet highly effective set alterations wonderfully evoke sylvan surroundings—a symbolic arena in Renaissance times for freedom from the formal constraints of ordered metropolitan or courtly society. Much befitting this atmosphere, several deer puppets make guest appearances throughout the play. They are a hit with the audience, and they greatly add to the creation of a forested world within the entirety of the Globe as they move elegantly through the groundlings and toward the stage.
Stage extensions are once again a feature in this Globe production, allowing both players and audience to come even closer and become more intertwined in this intimate theatrical space. Even the musicians, finely and uniformly dressed, add to this sense of the theatre space as a representation of all the world by playing from every conceivable angle of the Globe—offstage, onstage, outdoors completely, and even up in the seated galleries.
Costard (Joe Caffrey), a rustic and the comedic centre of this play, is adored by the audience from his very first entrance and continues to steal the show throughout. Visually—especially in costumed appearance—he is a source of humour, which he wisely and carefully builds upon with fantastic slapstick interpretations of Shakespeare’s text. As the character who has the lion’s share of sexual puns that pervade this play, Caffrey executes them flawlessly and to the delight of all audience members, even if the younger ones are laughing for different reasons.
Female presence onstage is made increasingly dramatic by their spectacular costumes; the vastly voluminous dresses work to emphasize their femininity in a land in which such a presence has been banned. When they are joined onstage by the men in similarly decadent outfits, the stage becomes a sumptuous feast for the eyes, and an echo of the men’s experience when faced with these women they have formerly pledged to avoid at all costs.
Our King of Navarre (Kobna Holdbrook-Smith) and his Lords in attendance are beautifully and warmly presented, with just the right amount of physical comedy to compliment their revelry. Despite poor Longeville’s (William Mannering) crutch-bearing performance (due to a recent foot injury) he presents a valiant adaptation of his planned performance, which on some comedic occasions, actually benefits from his props (in both senses of the word), undoubtedly evoking more laughter from the audience than could be achieved should he have been in full health.
The arrival of tragic news that halts the frivolity of this play works effectively in this performance. Despite the dampened atmosphere, the “Daisies Pied” song scene acts as a pleasant and gentle ending to the production. This entertaining music about the seasons and nature is a feast for the eyes and ears, and serves to unite the characters onstage by helping to tie together the fairly inconclusive dénouement of this play. Director Dominic Dromgoole provides his audience with a visual feast, and a light-hearted diversion from the troubles of every-day life, guaranteeing a jovial theatrical experience from beginning to end.