The relocation of Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost to the 1950s American College campus was one of the many changes made to Shakespeare’s early comedy, dubbed “respun, reshaken and remarkable”:
The play itself is an intriguing one, constantly playing with expectations and comically upsetting them, both for the characters within it and the audience watching. It comes as a surprise to many sat in the auditorium when “Jack hath not Jill” at the curtain call. But that’s getting ahead of myself.
I played Berowne, one of the frat boys [usually, lords] in Ferdinand’s frat [usually, court]. After failing our first year exams, Ferdinand has the bright idea (as so many American Youths do if movies are to be believed) to make a pact. No more chasing girls, no more eating, no more sleeping- only study.
Berowne is the most reluctant of those who sign up for this foolhardy plan, and from the outset looks to cheat his way out of it while pulling the wool over the eyes of his fellow students.
Little does he know they’re all at it as well, as is revealed in one of the best scenes in the play, when the boys unknowingly confess their love to an increasingly large and badly hidden audience of their peers.
The show was trimmed of all the Latin jokes and other flamboyant complexities that often made for stumbling blocks to audiences. The lean, streamlined result was a bobsleigh ride requiring immense energy and enthusiasm, and after the first big push we found ourselves carried through the twists and turns and sweeping the audience up with us.
The rehearsal process was similarly streamlined, and working with actors who were approaching Shakespeare for the first time allowed me to share my passion for it and help them get to grips with the forms and approaches I’ve found most useful.
The character was a dynamo, and I found my performance getting more and more physical. I threw myself into superman dives over furniture, powerslides across the stage, and leapt headlong into auditorium as we finally resolved to woo the girls once and for all.
It came together with typical panache, and the ever-gathering momentum even gave me the chance to talk about Shakespeare on BBC Radio Sheffield. Sell-out performances ensued, and we left it all on the stage, in what has to be one of the most enjoyable experiences of my acting life.