Love’s Labour’s Lost Review

Royal Shakespeare Theatre Stratford-Upon-Avon – until 18th May 2024

Reviewed by Amarjeet Singh


Love’s Labour’s Lost follows the King of Navarre and his three companions as they endeavour to swear off women for three years to focus on study and fasting. The Princess of France and her ladies arrive, wishing to speak to the King regarding the cession of Aquitaine, but must ultimately make their camp outside the court due to the Kings vow of female abstinence. However, upon visiting the Princess and her ladies at their camp, the King falls in love with the Princess, as do the lords with the ladies and these encounters make them break their oath. In an untraditional ending for a comedy, the play closes with the death of the Princess’s father, and all weddings are delayed for a year.

Sounds like a pretty straight forward piece to stage, yet many have struggled. Emily Burns’ rendition for the new season at the RSC is simply sublime. Every scene is meticulously thought out, every word perfectly placed. Whether it’s a Morecambe and Wise style water bottle exchange, or some finger snaps as the princesses discuss the archaic attitudes of the King and his Lords, there were no static moments, everything flowed and beautifully so. Navarre has now been reimagined as a Pacific Island and the King and his Lords have retreated to a sports and spa facility to endure their oath of lady abstinence. Tech wizards, they discard mobile phones, masks become face packs. It’s all so brilliant.

Polished and oozing luxury, the sets were opulent and dazzling. Designer Joanna Scotcher’s dramatic opening backdrop, set the political scene well, only to have us move on swiftly to a gold and cream haven which was framed with lights and boasting palm trees. At its center, the set contained a revolving, open staircase which added depth to the performance. Paul Englishby’s dulcet pacific island tones drew us into the story, like waves lapping on a beach. It was wonderful to see the musicians on the stage, with their garlands, flutes, and such.

The cast, as a whole, were a joy to watch, all coming together to bring this performance to life. Luke Thompson was endearing as Berowne and plays him in a cleverly understated way. Never missing a beat, he delivered a perfect performance. The same of which can be said of his ‘bro’s’, King Ferdinand (Abiola Owokoniran), and the lords Longaville (Eric Stroud) and Dumaine (Brandon Bassir). As a group, they were brilliant. Gelling together, bouncing off one another, fabulous viewing. Then we had the single ladies, who were sultry and smart. Less bawdy in their humour they none the less brought some strong and sophisticated sass to the stage. Princess (Melanie-Joyce Bermudez) opened and closed the play with such strength and tenderness, it brought a tear to my eye. Her ladies Rosaline (Ioanna Kimbook), Katherine (Amy Griffiths) and Maria (Sarita Gabony) were superb as the ‘straight guys’ to the antics of the King and his Lords.

The physical comedy was incredible, The boy band knights singing scene and the breaking the oath scene were utter genius, as was the final performance withing a performance. Don Armado, the fantastical Spaniard (Jack Bardoe), Boyet (Jordan Metcalfe), Holofernes (Tony Gardner) and Costard (Nathan Foad) raised thunderous laughter with their many antics.

This version of Love’s Labour’s Lost was a revelation. Modern, masterful, a contemporary handling of the battle of the sexes. Thoroughly enjoyable to watch and I felt so respected as a viewer by the attention to detail and the fun whimsical nature that ran through it like a cool breeze, but no doubt took so much effort to be this effortless. It really is a must see.