Saturday, September 5, 2020

327. LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975


Estelle Kohler, Ian Richardson.

LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST [Dramatic Revival] A: William Shakespeare; D: David Jones; DS: Timothy O’Brien, Tazeena Firth; L: Stewart Leviton; M: William Southgate; P: Brooklyn Academy of Music b/a/w the Royal Shakespeare Company Production; T: Brooklyn Academy of Music (OB); 2/13/75-4/6/75 (13)

In Edith Oliver’s words, this was a “lavish and accomplished” revival of Shakespeare’s extravagantly poetic comedy about lords, ladies, and love at the King of Navarre’s court. Deemed “a charmingly lyrical whimsy” by John Simon, it was part of a four-play repertory brought over by England’s Royal Shakespeare Company.

According to Douglas Watt, the pretty setting consisted of “a grassy stage cloth . . . , a huge green cloth that sails above the playing area from deep in the rear like a promise of spring and forests, and a few stylized trees." The music was “wonderfully Brittenish,” said Simon, and Oliver observed that “Shakespeare’s lines just pour out, sounding as they are meant to sound, and the actors have completely mastered all those rhymed couplets.”

David Jones, wrote Simon, “directed with inventiveness and finesse, although he did not quite succeed with the final saddening and darkening of the tone.” “Stylish and firm,” the staging may have been, but “relish and excitement” seemed to Oliver to be absent. Clive Barnes, however, scored the production’s “zest” in its favor. Unlike Simon, he appreciated the “grave beauty” of the closing, “unforced and gentle in its melancholy.”

What John Beaufort dubbed a “glistening revival” was marked by the widely acknowledged brilliance of the acting ensemble, but Simon, despite his respect for their talents, thought the company “less than perfect.” Martin Gottfried described the acting as “sterile, . . . cold and uninspired professionalism," leading to a “bland production.”"

These disclaimers aside, Ian Richardson’s Berowne was the centerpiece performance. “Mr. Richardson gave us a far more spirited Berowne than is the more ironic custom,” declared Barnes, “with his mellifluous voice broken with passion as well as with humor.” Simon, however, considered him “a bit overripe and even faintly sinister.”

The cast included David Suchet as the King of Navarre, Robert Ashby as Longaville, Michael Ensign as Dumain, Tony Church as Don Adriano de Armado, Susan Fleetwood as the Princess of France, Patrick Godfrey as Boyet, Janet Chappell as Katharine, Lynette Davies as Maria, Mike Gwilym as Costard, Norman Rodway as Holofernes, and Jeffrey Dench as Sir Nathaniel.