In a monumental year as far as Shakespeare is concerned, people must be expecting Oxford Shakespeare Company to set the bar high when they bring Love’s Labour’s Lost to Wadham College this summer.
The pressure must be especially daunting. But director Nick Green says “the pressure is the same each year. We just want to deliver a good, funny show with a lot of music to the Oxford audience.”
Composer Nick Lloyd Webber agrees. “We’ve done shows in Oxford for 13 years now,” he says. “We put a lot of pressure on ourselves anyway. I think really for us this is just an opportunity to celebrate what we’re already doing.”
Love’s Labour’s Lost wasn’t the plan from the get-go Green tells me. “We started originally with The Winter’s Tale but it is limited in terms of us adding music. So I read Love’s Labour’s Lost which offers us opportunities musically that our first choice did not.”
This OSC production is not the first Love’s Labour’s Lost with added music: Kenneth Branagh’s 2000 film does it too, but Branagh collected already existing songs and slotted them in, whereas OSC will make use of an original score for this open-air production.
It’s set in the 1970s, taking us from start to finish of a decade described by Lloyd Webber as a “musically rich and versatile” one. “We’ve got that early seventies post-hippy come-down bit, the slightly inappropriate prog rock moment and then punk” He reveals.
Propelling the Bard into the 20th century then…“In Shakespeare there’s room for everyone,” Green claims. “I wouldn’t deny anybody the opportunity to do a show in traditional costume using the correct pronunciation with no cuts. But we have moved on from that.”
The OSC actors double up as musicians. “We always have an eye, or ear, for the musicians among those we audition,” says Lloyd Webber. “Last year with Twelfth Night it worked brilliantly because we had a violinist and a flautist, and we ended up having a really great band.
“It works really well outside,” the composer also states. “When the actors get into it we find that they respond really well. It helps lift the whole production. I remember one year we did The Tempest and I was so proud because after the last song loads of kids were dancing around on stage singing the song that had just happened. That’s exactly how it should be in that environment.”
Love’s Labour’s Lost is one of many performances taking place this year to mark Shakespeare’s anniversary, but what about his legacy beyond the world of performance? How embedded is he in our everyday lives?
“He’s all over the place,” Green says. “The expression ‘for goodness sake’ comes from Henry VIII, ‘a foregone conclusion’ is from Othello, and the word ‘amazement’ is credited to him.”
Hopefully we don’t knowingly chat enough Shakespeare day-to-day for us not to want a bit more of it. Love’s Labour’s Lost, complete with a field of flowers for the backdrop, takes place Tuesday 28th June-Thursday 18th August at Wadham College Gardens. Book tickets through www.osctheatre.org.uk. Tickets are on the door (subject to availability).
Love’s Labour’s Lost is also at Wilderness Festival on Sunday 7th August.
This OSC production is part of Shakespeare Oxford 2016.
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