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Love’s Labour’s Lost opens the RSC’s season - the first of new Co-directors, Daniel Evans and Tamara Harvey. The play, directed by Emily Burns, is sumptuous, sharp and riotously funny, ingeniously set in a tech billionaire’s private Pacific Island idyll.

The billionaire in question is Ferdinand (Abiola Owokoniran), who has summoned his best mates, Berowne (Luke Thompson), Longaville (Eric Stroud) and Dumaine (Brandon Bassir), to spend three years on what could be described as a ‘cleanse’. They’re shut off from the world - including their phones - and swear that they will have no contact with women. We’ll see how well that goes down…

Against the odds, four eligible women are making a beeline for Ferdinand’s high-class hermitage, although their aim is business, not recreation. The Princess of a neighbouring nation, played by Melanie-Joyce Bermudez, has been sent to negotiate a land dispute on behalf of her ailing father. She’s accompanied by her impeccably dressed entourage, Rosaline (Ioanna Kimbook), Katherine (Amy Griffiths) and Maria (Sarita Gabony), and the man with the legal documents, Boyet (Jordan Metcalfe).

The play has a delightfully silly plot, with the boys quickly giving up on their vow of abstinence in favour of each wooing a different woman. It’s refreshing and quite empowering to see men frivolously and unapologetically striving for romance, and occasionally taking their kit off - in the name of masculine passion, maybe? The women remain cool, controlled, and amused. Hijinks ensue.

A very funny subplot happens almost out of sight of the uber-rich characters, among the staff who are running Ferdinand’s mansion. Posturing Spanish resident Don Armado (Jack Bardoe) is pursuing Jaquenetta (Marienella Phillips), and bemused Costard (Nathan Foad), who seems to have a foot in every camp, is caught up in it.

It’s a wordy play, with quite a lot of nonsensical chatter, which often falls to Holofernes (Tony Gardner), Moth (Iskandar Eaton) and Foad’s Costard. All three expertly bring meaning out of the madness without dropping the pace. If the audience is bemused, they’re not alone - the well-named Dull, who was understudied by Jeffrey Chekai, is completely unimpressed by the word games.

The Pacific Island setting works extremely well to tell the story, and the play is punctuated by gorgeous music to set the scene. While always upbeat, there is an undercurrent ridiculing Ferdinand’s decadent idyll, and the impact that his presence has on the local landscape - social, political and environmental. In the end, the Princess holds power and influence that Ferdinand will never achieve.

Love’s Labour’s Lost is a triumph, a fresh take on a less well-known play, and promises great things for the remainder of the season.

Five Stars

Love’s Labour’s Lost was reviewed by Jessica Clixby on Thursday 18 April at The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, where it runs until Saturday 18 May.