One thing all the U of Alberta Studio Theatre series productions have in common is interesting set and costume design with satisfying attention to detail. Earlier this season I enjoyed the stark spareness setting the mood for pool (no water), and then the period costumes of Pains of Youth and Bloody Poetry.
The designs for Love’s Labours Lost were playful and full of joy, with bright colours and silliness conveying the frivolous not-quite-real background for this comedy, set by the text in the Kingdom of Navarre. Apparently there was a real place by this name, located on the French border of Spain. Visitors to the kingdom included a “fantastical” Spaniard, Don Armando (Oscar Derkx), with exaggerated and very funny Hispano-Quixotic gestures and accent, and the daughter of the King of France (Mariann Kirby) and some members of her court (Merran Carr-Wiggin, Zoe Glassman, Cristina Patalastc, Braydon Dowler-Coltman, Sarah Ormandy). Georgia Irwin plays the clown Costard with a consistent Scottish burr, for no explainable reason other than to make her character distinct from the local noblemen – but it’s funny.
The premise of the main plot is that the young King of France (Adam Klassen) convinces his male courtiers to join him for three years of studying, following a near-monastic rule with restrictions on food and sleep and a proscription on contact with women. Berowne (Neil Kuefler) is particularly reluctant to sign on to this plan, although he eventually agrees along with the characters played by Kristian Stec and Graham Mothersill. But almost immediately after they agree, they find out that the Princess of France and her attendants are on their way for a visit. So they decide to keep the letter of the agreement by meeting the visitors in a park rather than in the palace. And of course as soon as they meet, the men of Navarre are immediately struck with admiration for the women of France, conveniently aligned in non-conflicting pairs.
Meanwhile, bits of broader comedy (i.e. wacky hijinks) keep intervening, with the random cocky Spaniard and his saxophone-playing page (Andrea Rankin), a country girl (Braydon Dowler-Coltman), the aforementioned clown Costard carrying messages and mixing them up, a constable (Brandon Nearey), a schoolmaster (Merran Carr-Wiggin), and a curate (Mark Vetsch).
The play runs almost two and a half hours (not counting the intermission) but I found that the time just flew by.
The story suits modern sensibilities and recent trends in popular culture by showing the Princess as competent with an air of authority, speaking mostly in prose, and in one scene hunting a deer with a bow and arrows. I was most intrigued by the characters of the Princess and of Berowne, the courtier most willing to dispute with the King and then to declare his affection to Rosaline. Berowne is also a leader in some affectionate trash-talking competition.
Love’s Labours Lost is directed by Kevin Sutley. It is playing at the Timms Centre until Saturday, including a 2-for-1 ticket deal Monday (tomorrow). If you click here on the Department of Drama website within the next few weeks, you can see a gallery of photos from the production showing the colourful costumes (the academic gowns and hoods are University of Alberta doctoral/faculty style). And I’ll also offer you one more related link to click, the indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to help the young performers of this BFA Acting class take a modest audition tour together after they graduate in the spring.