REVIEW: Love’s Labour’s Lost at Chichester Festival Theatre

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Two purveyors of top theatrical quality – the CFT and the RSC – are currently giving us a Shakespearean double-bill.

Love’s Labour’s Lost is first on the agenda. An early comedy – evidenced by Shakespeare’s rigid use of rhythm and rhyme. In the hands of lesser players this can become irritating but here the cast (particularly Jamie Newell as Boyet) avoid it wonderfully and the script comes over as fresh and very funny.

A typical Shakespearean comedy of confusion, the play tells of the King of Navarre and his three besties giving up all thoughts of women to study. They’ve all signed a contract; they’re all resolved. Well – for five minutes until the Princess of France and her three besties pay a visit. Pranks, confusion, love and resolution follow.

Edward Bennett soars as Berowne – particularly in the scene where he overhears his pals soliloquising about their abandoned vows of chastity. John Hodgkinson as Don Armado is a huge, camp presence and Nick Haverson as Costard gives a masterclass in Shakespearean character-comedy.

Leah Whitaker as the Princess and Lisa Dillon as Rosaline are sublime and the wonderfully-managed change of mood at the end of the play is directorial genius.

Until October 29.