The hunt is on in the first offering from this year's Bard in the Botanics season of outdoor Shakespeares, with one of his lesser spotted rom-coms leading the charge. Gordon Barr's promenade production opens with Constable Dull cast as a red-neck parkie navigating the audience up hill and down dale. Here King Ferdinand of Navarre and his preppy band of brothers sport donnish gowns to make lofty proclamations of abstinence for three full years while they get themselves some qualifications.
When the fair maids of France come calling necking airline miniatures and with their smalls hanging out to dry, the rugby shirts go on but the gloves are off as temptation looks like getting the better of the stags if not the hens. Throw in Kirk Bage's Daliesque Spanish rogue Don Andriano and a couple of chavvy servants and it looks like the casts of Made in Chelsea and Geordie Shore have been rounded up and cast incongruously adrift on Love Island.
Despite the frivolity, there's depth to Barr's production which taps into the play's complex treatise on the fragile forces of true love in a place where macho gestures simply aren't enough. This is seen especially in the intellectual kiss-chase between Ferdinand's cynical sidekick Berowne and The Princess's soul sister Rosaline, played with intelligence and wit by James Ronan and Nicole Cooper.
As the bad tidings at the end of the play upends the merriment in favour of pathos, the song and dance finale that follows may be a cop-out, but it still suggests it's only right for those involved to take time out enough to grow a pair in this winningly difficult affair.
The Herald, June 29th 2015