Tennant plays for laughs at RSC
David Tennant started rehearsals for Love's Labour's Lost almost immediately after Hamlet opened at Stratford's Courtyard Theatre a few months ago. It's hard not to be in awe of his commitment and mental agility.
His star status made Hamlet a theatrical event and the RSC may well have another hit on their hands, which is surprising given that the play is Shakespeare's most forgettable early comedy. But the triumph is not Tennant's alone. The cast is very much an ensemble. Edward Bennett as Navarre, Joe Dixon as Don Adriano De Armado, and Nina Sosanya as Rosaline really stand out.
Tennant plays the witty Berowne (this and Hamlet were the two roles Tennant was particularly keen on playing, a happy co-incidence for director Greg Doran to want to direct the very same) who is sceptical of King Navarre's intention to withdraw to the forest with his Lords to fast, study and deny themselves female company for three years. This all changes when the Princess of France arrives with her ladies.
The play is rarely performed and its reams of tricky Elizabethan wordplay might explain why, but Doran's production is full of exuberance and had the first night audience in stitches. It loses its way in the second half, and while there is much to reflect about love over reason, playing it only for laughs obscures that.
The pre-teen audience who piled in to see Tennant as the Prince of Denmark may not be as compelled by this, but they will come none the less, such is Tennant's cache. Whatever weaknesses in the play, what they will see is an actor who can hold an audience utterly every time he is on stage.