Theatre | Love's Labour's Lost | Ken Longworth

POWER PLAY: A scene from Love’s Labour’s Lost, which is being staged by Newcastle Theatre Company.
POWER PLAY: A scene from Love’s Labour’s Lost, which is being staged by Newcastle Theatre Company.

WHEN Richard Murray was holidaying in the Blue Mountains in January last year he went to see a production of William Shakespeare’s comedy Love’s Labour’s Lost that was staged as part of a Shakespeare festival.

He was impressed by the way Damien Ryan, the artistic director of the Sydney-based staging company, Sport for Jove, made changes to the sex of some of the characters and added contemporary references so that the play commented on issues including marriage equality.

So he contacted Ryan to see if he would allow his text to be used by other companies. And, when Ryan gave his approval, Murray, who is an actor and director with Newcastle Theatre Company, put that version to the NTC board as a possible show for this year – and the board agreed.

Love’s Labour’s Lost, with Murray as director, is being staged at NTC’s Lambton theatre for a three-week season from October 7. 

The play opens with Ferdinand, the king of Navarre, a country between France and Spain, telling the three friends who are his courtiers that they must join him in refraining from having relationships with women for the next three years while they complete studies. The trio reluctantly agree. But when beautiful French princess Margot comes to Navarre to discuss a borderline issue, accompanied by three attractive female attendants, the four men find it hard not to make amorous advances to them. 

Damien Ryan’s adaptation has one of the king’s offsiders, Longaville, a woman masquerading as a man because she is trying to get acceptance of the need for marriage equality. His text also excludes a gossipy French lord who gives the princess and her attendants advice, so that the women are seen to be able to make their own decisions on issues. Two other supportive characters have also become women. Richard Murray said the sex changes make clearer Shakespeare’s message that what you do is as important as what you think, with the people who have the power in this case being the women because they are more upfront than the men.

Derek Fisher plays King Ferdinand, and Tegan Gow is Princess Margot, with the cast also including Hadrian Le Goff, Nicholas Watson and Gabriella Chamberlain as the king’s offsiders, and Madeline Valentinis, Annalie Hamilton and Maddy Lardner as the princess’s aides, plus Michael Blaxland, Millie Chorlton, Marjorie Butcher, Stephanie McDonald, John Franks, Fiona Morrison and Renee Thomas.

Love’s Labour’s Lost has performances on Saturday, October 7, at 8pm, and Sunday, October 9, at 2pm, then Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 8pm, until October 21, plus 2pm on October 14. Bookings: 4952 4958.