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Ladettes rather than ladies
on 21 March 2011
I have had a life-long soft spot for this play, despite its verbal difficulties, and looked forward very much to watching this dvd.
To play it as a farce - with almost goon-ish touches - is a perfectly valid approach, and in many ways proves to be effective and entertaining. Even so,I would have liked a little more gravitas in places from Trystan Gravelle as Berowne, but on the whole King Ferdinand and his gentlemen come over well, and they handle the sometimes difficult text intelligently, bringing out the wit and sparkle even in the more obscure passages.
The secondary characters are uniformly well-taken. Paul Ready remains just on the right side of caricature as Don Armado, but it is Seroca Davis as little Moth who steals scene after scene.
So far, so delightful, but alas it is the Princess and her ladies who, for me, reduce a possible rating of five stars to a mere three. Farce or not, the Princess must convince us that she is royalty, and Michelle Terry's coarse shrieking and broken-glass mangling of her text had me cringing almost every time she opened her mouth - a pity, as her restrained and dignified final scene showed how much better she might have been. Thomasin Rand as Rosaline is very little better, and when she and her mistess really get going they could give Billingsgate points. Perhaps the excellent Tom Stuart as the suave Boyet could have given them some lessons in elocution before they travelled to Navarre.
As it is, the ladies of France come over more like ladettes, and mar an otherwise enjoyable production of an all too rarely performed play.
Claire van Kampen's music, unlike so much recent incidental music, is an enhancement of the action.