By Nate John
“Every jest, but a word” and every word in jest was well received in Castle Theatre Company’s summer rendition of Love’s Labour’s Lost. A pseudo-sixties’ aesthetic drips off the costume design of the production which finds the happy medium between stuffy traditional garb and haughty modern clothes vainly attempting to re-enact Luhrmann’s style.
The actors make excellent use of the space in Castle’s Fellows Gardens, but the professionalism of the cast and director are sure to make the most of all the spaces they are performing with on their tour. The musical ensemble, made up entirely of the actors, is remarkably talented and the production makes the songs of the play come to vivid life, while other productions of Shakespeare’s works shy away from the songs entirely. The music and unexpected dance numbers provide a lovely absurdist atmosphere which truly allows the comedy of the piece to come through, which few Shakespeare productions achieve to such a delightful effect. Though outside, the production largely avoids the frequent problems of being too quiet with only a few lines being swallowed by the grass, wind, and other ambiance of which the cast should try to be more aware of.
Overall, however, the lines are all delivered with true purpose and understanding that captures the metre, rhymes, and comedy of the play in an expert fashion. Griffon Shelton, Kishore Thiagarajan-Walker, and Owen Kennedy (the Navarran court) all have fantastic comedic timing and the comedic chemistry between this trio is tangible to the audience. The trio are constantly flinging themselves to the ground in a marvellously over the top fashion. Their female countersEmily McLean, Florence Petrie, and Lydia Cook (the French court) provide their characters the wit and sharpness they deserve in courting the ridiculous affections of their compatriots.
John Broadhead’s pelvis thrustingly flamboyant portrayal of Don Adriano de Armado, complete with a “Spanish” accent adds an almost slapstick nature to the show. Armado’s page, Moth, portrayed by Ralph Skan, is a charming Jeeves like manservant with a lively zaniness to rival Broadhead’s camp Spaniard. Ben Cartwright’s Sir Nathaniel is the overly academic, bumbling nerd of a curate. While Fionna Monk channels her inner Professor Trelawney and puts her classics degree to good use as she plays the schoolmistress, Holofernes.
As always, Monk delivers stupendous comedic timing, physicality, and displays a truly terrific tongue twisting talent that is often booksplittingly funny. Tom Murray plays Costard, the bumbling country bumkin interacting with all his fellow actors, demonstrative of true comedic talent. Though perhaps not the largest role, Armado’s lover Jacquetta, Helena Baker does the most with it, adding a visible vitality to the character not included in the few lines she has. Aaron Rozanski portrays the Queen’s man, Boyette, with all the wit, charm, and snide the character deserves. Last but certainly not least, Georgie Proctor’s Dull is a remarkable straightman to the general anarchy that the show so perfectly devolves into.
Now I’m a cold cynical guy who studied directing in school and I usually walk away from a show, from Broadway to a college panto, with a million things that I would change and improve. However, for once the list is practically non-existent. Everyone reading this has seen a butchered Shakespeare performance, they range from the cringeworthy to the coma inducing, but this is not it. It is productions like this, which give Durham Student Theatre its excellent reputation. This production is alive in every aspect and so I can heartily recommend this show to Shakespeare lovers and sceptics alike.
CTC’s Love’s Labour’s Lost plays at Ushaw College at 1:30pm on June 23rd.
For more information check out their website at https://www.castletheatrecompany.com/ for their tour dates and venues.