Being presented at the Kailash Mital Theatre at Carleton University, Sock’N’Buskin brings us one of Shakespeare’s early comedies about the game of love, Love’s Labour’s Lost.
Should you see it?
Love’s Labour’s Lost seems basic enough; King Ferdinand and three members of his court open the show by signing a three year oath to devote themselves fully to scholarly pursuits. Among the strict provisions in the oath is that the group will swear off even looking at women. The King’s right hand man, Berowne immediately sees this going horribly wrong, but signs anyway. Shortly after, the King is forced to play diplomat and do some business with a Princess from a neighbouring kingdom, and her three ladies in waiting. Naturally, the king and his men instantly fall for the Princess and her ladies. From there the men try finding ways to sneak around their oath, the women play with their affections, and there are supporting characters and other things going on peripherally.
I had a really hard time getting into this play. The reason is that I felt very little conviction from most of the characters and so they failed to command any attention. The two worst examples were King Ferdinand who should be one of the characters to command the most attention (he is the King, after all) but who had very little presence at all and Don Armado who, honestly, barely looked comfortable in his skin.
That isn’t to say there weren’t merits in the production. The scene near the end of act one, with the King and his men spying on one another was engaging and fun and made cool use of the nice woodsy set. The costumes, too, were lovely.
There was also a great scene where (like in A Midsummer Night’s Dream) the minor characters present a play of sorts to the main characters. This scene was the first time in the play where I really felt that Love’s Labour’s Lost was alive. The pacing was fast and snappy, it seemed fun, the characters actually felt like they existed and weren’t just actors reading lines. The energy and vitality that especially Don Armado (by contrast alone) showed in this scene would have been a prize to have been carried throughout the play.
Fortunately, there were several actors who brought it for the whole production. Will Lafrance’s Berowne, the witty joker with shades of Mercutio (Romeo and Juliet), Reena Belford’s mocking flirtation as the Princess, and Lauren Walker as Moth are three that almost always felt like they belonged in the world of the play. There were a couple of others who felt almost there but they felt mismatched against each other and would have benefited from some kind of unity.
Shakespeare isn’t the easiest type of theatre to pull off convincingly. It often relies a lot on his word play and banter and quick/coy turns of phrase. If it isn’t happening, if very little of that is coming through, as was the case here, then the production falls flat.
But that’s just my opinion and I want to know what you thought. Did any actors note mention that I skipped over? Did it fall flat for you or was I watching a different play than you saw? Tell me in the comments below.
As of publishing, you have tonight left to see Sock’n’Buskin’s Love’s Labour’s Lost. For full details including ticket info (which is only $15), see our preview article.