“I feel so absolutely stumped on the floor”
Proving that not even Kenneth Branagh is infallible when it comes to Shakespearean adaptations, this musical version of Love’s Labour’s Lost sees him really come a cropper. Relocating the story to 1939 on the eve of the Second World War and swapping out three-quarters of Shakespeare’s text for a handful of Cole Porter songs to evoke the feel of a classic Golden Age musical, it is a curiously insubstantial enterprise and at its worst, somewhat smug.
It doesn’t help that the play itself ain’t a classic, as evidenced by the rarity with which it is produced but still, the approach here just doesn’t work. There’s a game cast of actors who are clearly up for it but their every weakness in singing and dancing is left exposed, there’s a paucity of triple threats here which just leaves you wondering why bother? And when you see the amazing moves of Adrian Lester or the sweet tones of Alessandro Nivola’s voice, you get hints of what might have been.
Instead, the actors’ original voices are left undubbed, their shuffling moves unretouched, its knowing amateurishness never truly acknowledged to at least let us in on the joke. I’m not someone who considers themself to ever take their Shakespeare too seriously but I found this hard-going and I love 1930s musicals with all of my heart. Richard Briers and Geraldine McEwan are sweet but Alicia Silverstone and Matthew Lillard are terrible, the rest stretch out inbetween in a way that is best avoided.