Review: Love’s Labour’s Lost (Bard in the Park)

Toronto’s Bard in the Park stages William Shakespeare’s play Love’s Labour’s Lost

photo provided by company

Plunking myself down on the grass in front of the Alex Christie Bandstand, I hunkered down on a verdant slope to watch the Shakespearean classic, Love’s Labour’s Lost by Bard in Park.

Taking place at the scenic Kew Gardens in Toronto’s Beaches neighbourhood, the heavy canvas curtains fluttered in the wind and the audience members, hoods up, stoically braced themselves against the unseasonable cold.

Directed by Caedmon-Ricker Wilson and Marinka Yossiffon, Love’s Labour’s Lost is an interpretation of an early Shakespearean comedy of errors set in the era of the 1970s. King Ferdinand decrees that him and his companions must swear off women for three years in order to dedicate themselves to study and prayer, but when the princess of France and her ladies arrive, it throws a monkeywrench in their plans. Through a series of mix-ups, the comedy of the play unfolds.

While the weather was not ideal for an outdoor performance, the presence of sequin booty shorts and an abundance of polyester and chest hair set a steamy scene. The lurid colour of the costumes set against the natural beauty of the park was an interesting contrast and made for a stylish setting for this classic tale. 

Sean Killackey’s performance as Lord Byron stood out for his charisma and a comedic sensibility that reminded me a bit of the mad-cap style of a classic Groucho Marx. Melissa Beveridge, who plays a female Costard, carries a great deal of the action with her presence and comedic sensibilities (as well as her impressively huge hair). 

I would mention that I was in love with Jonathan DuFour’s flowing pants and dance moves, as well as the saucy, Mean Girls vibe of Riley Anne, Princess of France and her retinue.

The play was at its best when it was at its zaniest, and there were some truly funny and touching moments. Killackey’s speech about the nature of love had a natural and poignant quality that was a refreshingly grounded moment amidst a somewhat uneven production.

The energy dropped towards the end, and many of the lines seemed rushed, so much so that as someone who hadn’t seen or read this play, I seemed to have missed some major plot points. I would perhaps dismiss any of these problems as a combination of freezing temperatures combined with opening night jitters.

My friend loved how close we were to the actors, and that at many points during the action, they broke the 4th wall, walking among the audience members as well as addressing us directly. As a non-native English speaker, my friend also had some trouble with comprehension, but despite this and the weather, said that he had a good time.

All in all, it seemed like the Bard in the Park cast was there for the love of theatre, and that totally came across. There was a sense of community and camaraderie that, despite being a little rough around the edges, made this an enjoyable experience for myself and my friend.

Details:

  • Love’s Labour’s Lost is playing June 13th-19th at Kew Gardens.
  • Showtimes run from Monday to Saturday at 7:00pm, with Saturday and Sunday Matinees at 2:00 pm
  • Shows are pay-what-you-can and no tickets are required
  • Spectators and encouraged to bring blankets or chairs and to dress appropriate to the weather, as this is an outdoor venue.

Photo provided by company