Around two-thirds of the original cast return as Christopher Luscombe’s double-bill of Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost and Much Ado About Nothing is revived 18 months after finishing at Stratford.
Edward Bennett (playing Berowne and Benedict) is among the returning performers but now finds himself opposite a new leading lady in Lisa Dillon as Rosaline and Beatrice (Chichester Festival Theatre, until October 29). And that’s both the challenge and the pleasure of the production.
“There is an element where the two shows were a success because of what we did with them,” Edward says. “So there is a large element of wanting to recreate them because that is what worked. But we have got six new people that have come into the cast (out of 22), in varying different parts, and there is also that element you get with most actors a week or a week and a half after finishing something of thinking ‘I wish I had done that bit differently!’ Now we have got that opportunity. We will have had another seven or eight weeks’ rehearsal, so it is great to have that chance to refine and reimagine. But with the new people coming in, it becomes a very different thing. You are talking about human beings coming in, and human beings will always bring something different. We have got Lisa now, and you have to be very patient; you have to be very open. You don’t want to always be going ‘This is what we did last time.’ It is wonderful to be working with her now. She was three years above me when I started at drama school. When I got to RADA, she was a third year. She had been deconstructed and reconstructed as the complete, finished package, this final magical product that RADA produces, and it is a real pleasure to be working with her now, rediscovering these plays.
“But it is very much an ensemble show. Everyone is affected by the new people coming in. But the wonderful thing in rehearsals is when they stop being the new cast and become simply the cast as they get more confident and everything comes together.”
Also there is the joy of comparing and contrasting: “Love Labour’s Lost came back a lot easier because it is in verse which is much easier to remember. Prose is harder to maintain. (Director) Chris wanted us to be as familiar as possible with the text when we started rehearsals, which obviously meant an accelerated learn for the newcomers. But it is lovely to get again that insight into Shakespeare’s views on love at different points in his life. Love’s Labour’s Lost is much earlier, much more youthful and exuberant, but Much Ado is much later. He has been through the mill a bit by then, and you get to appreciate a much greater degree of sophistication in his writing after the froth.”
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