Open-air Theatre


by William Shakespeare

Two heart-shaped red balloons and pages floating in the sky

Thu 25 July - Sat 3 August 2019 at 7.30pm (no performance Sun 28 July)
Performed in the open air in the courtyard of Abington Park Museum, Park Avenue South, Northampton NN1 5LW

Shakespeare meets The Big Bang Theory/Beauty and the Geek

Previewed by Beverley Webster | director

Loves's Labours Lost is one of those Shakespearean comedies that many people have heard but never seen.

It's quite rarely performed; Masque haven't put it on since 1998, which is one of the reasons I chose to look it over when I was asked if I'd be interested in directing the Summer Shakespeare production.

My first instinct was that I enjoyed the play, the witty banter, the comedy interludes and the love-play between the courtly characters.

There were a couple of drawbacks, however, including the smattering of Latin and the rather bizarre and incongruous pageant scene. This led me to think about modernising the piece; if I had a modern setting I could use translations of the Latin phrases (courtesy of the RSC version) and update the pageant characters. Have you any clue who Judas Maccabaeus was? Me neither. I therefore looked at the characteristics described of the pageant's 'worthies' (defined as 'persons notable or important in a particular sphere') and with minimal changes to Shakespeare's text, chose modern day equivalents that could be equally mocked for similar traits. I'll leave their exact identities for you to discover when you come to see the show.

Next I set about editing the play with a modern setting in mind and realised that the concept of studious men being blown away by gorgeous women chimes with such contemporary references as
Beauty and the Geek, or The Big Bang Theory.

What didn't fit at that point were the references to hunting deer, so the majority of those allusions also disappeared. This had the unintended bonus of cutting many of the now impenetrable 'jokes' (e.g. the mishearing of 'haut credo' for 'old grey doe') and it focused the text on the main action of the play.

After much thought and consideration, I have cut the script down to around an hour and forty minutes, which is within the region of the ideal length for a romantic comedy in the film world and should hopefully add to its appeal, particularly for those audiences not familiar with Shakespeare.

Rehearsals have been a lot of fun as we explore the comedy of each scene, and I've been very pleased how the characters are gelling. My King of Navarre and his Lords (Will Brown, new to Masque, James Lickman, Alistair Way and James Hay, also new) have started to bond and the scenes where they interact with the Princess and her ladies (Nicola Osborne, Julia Langley, Mairead Kearins and Amelia Litchfield, another Masque newcomer) are charming and funny in equal measure. They are spurred on by 'love monger' Boyet (Gemma Knight).

In the stock comedy roles we are seeing the emergence of some interesting double acts: Victor Guse and April Pardoe (as Armado the braggart Spaniard and his page Moth), Jan Stoppani plays alongside Owen Warr (as Holofernes, the pedantic schoolmistress and Sir Nathaniel the curate) and Lou Chawner is ably accompanied by Di Wyman (as Costar, the swain and his lady friend Jaquenetta, a wench). Last but not least Kevin Pinks plays the aptly named policeman, Dull, through whom Shakespeare is able to have a dig at himself for his own use of somewhat florid language, on occasion.

Read a full synopsis of the play by downloading the document below (PDF format):

Download synopsis

Masque Theatre's production is directed by Beverley Webster who has previously directed Playhouse Creatures (2017)