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Review of Shoestring’s production of Love’s Labour’s Lost at Stamford Arts Centre





People are prone to making public pledges of high-minded intent - then having to justify an embarrasing slip up, or a change of heart.

It’s true of many politicians. It’s true of anyone who’s made a new year's resolution. And it’s true of one LincsOnline reporter who said they’d not eat biscuits in June.

Fortunately such foibles aren’t new, and poking fun at the sanctimonious was already a sport back in Shakespeare’s day.

Simon Hix Litten as Boyet and the disruptive French ladies. Photo: Larry Wilkes
Simon Hix Litten as Boyet and the disruptive French ladies. Photo: Larry Wilkes

Love’s Labour’s Lost - the trickiest of the Bard’s titles to utter aloud - begins with this problem for the King of Navarre and three of his companions, who vow to spend three years studying.

They become more or less immediately distracted by the arrival of the Princess of France and three of her ladies.

It’s a great choice of play for Stamford Shoestring Theatre, which attracts actors who can handle comic characters, and they made this already accessible Shakespeare play a real romp through the humorous storyline.

Dan Stamp's character Costard is held prisoner by Darcey Holbird as Mote. Photo: Larry Wilkes
Dan Stamp's character Costard is held prisoner by Darcey Holbird as Mote. Photo: Larry Wilkes

The cast includes Henry Sauntson as the King of Navarre, alongside Matthew Norris, Duncan Balcon and William Darbishire as his companions, who have all mastered the art of the raised eyebrow, the sideways look and other comic effects, and who at times had sections of the audience in stitches.

Ellen Fraser plays the French Princess, with Ellie Corrigan, Jenni Kemp and Dominique Norris her ladies, who ooze a clever cattiness that is so cruel to the chaps at times, I’m surprised the audience didn’t launch into panto-mode to give them a boo and a hiss, and warn the boys to ‘run for the hills’.

Actors to really relish in this production are Simon Hix Litten, who also gave a stand-out performance at Tolethorpe last year, and Darcey Holbird, the youngest of the cast.

Simon plays Boyet, a well-dressed, gossipy French lord who accompanies the ladies and delivers some of the best lines as he takes an equal part in teasing the king, while Darcey plays a page and not only delivers plenty of complex and witty passages from Shakespeare’s work, but also sings and smiles and charms the audience completely.

Shoestring Theatre's cast for Love's Labour's Lost, on stage in Stamford and then in Cornwall. Photo: Larry Wilkes
Shoestring Theatre's cast for Love's Labour's Lost, on stage in Stamford and then in Cornwall. Photo: Larry Wilkes

The set and costumes are bright, beautiful and suitably summery, although some actors’ shoes clomped a bit on Stamford Arts Centre’s stage, which could prove a slight distraction for some in the front few rows.

Shoestring is performing the play until Saturday (June 8) at Stamford Arts Centre. Tickets are £12/£10 from Stamford Arts Centre 01780 763203 or www.stamfordartscentre.com

Shoestring rehearsing Love's Labour's Lost. Photo: Larry Wilkes
Shoestring rehearsing Love's Labour's Lost. Photo: Larry Wilkes

Following the Stamford run, the cast, crew, set and costumes will travel down to the spectacular open-air Minack Theatre, perched on the cliff tops of south-west Cornwall, where the play will again be performed.



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