JOYCE MCMILLAN on LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST at the Botanic Gardens, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 29.6.15.
4 stars ****
IT’S OFTEN SAID, of Shakespeare’s comic writing, that his witty Elizabethan wordplay no longer works for modern audiences. If you want to see a brilliant young company give the lie to that suggestion, though, then head for the Glasgow Botanics, where Gordon Barr’s impressive Bard In The Botanics team are simply excelling themselves with a production that comes very close to making full and beautiful sense of that overwritten torrent of super-clever poetry, Love’s Labour’s Lost.
Written early in Shakespeare’s career, Love’s Labour’s Lost is the foolish and heavily padded-out tale of a young king and his three university friends who vow to avoid the company of women, only to be blown off course, that very day, by the arrival of the lovely Princess of France and her three ladies, on a diplomatic mission.
Yet as Barr’s gorgeous, witty and playful company lead us on a two-and-a-half-hour promenade through the woods and greens of the Botanics, they make us feel in our blood and bones the huge boyish, bookish passion for life, love and language that drives the drama, to its unexpectedly dark and subtle ending. There are delicious leading performances from Nicole Cooper and James Ronan as Rosaline and Berowne, and from Ben Clifford and Stephanie McGregor as the King and Princess, with the whole company of 14 full of witty understanding in support. And one of Berowne’s most passionate and elaborate speeches even wins its own ovation, like an aria brilliantly sung; as if the young Shakespeare’s brilliant, obsessive way with words were finally coming into fashion again, 400 years on.
Botanic Gardens, Glasgow, until 11 July.