SATTF, operating on a wing and a prayer since 2000, has often put other, subsidised, companies to shame with the clarity, intelligence and sheer joie de vivre of its productions; and Love's Labour's Lost finds the company at the top of its game.
Unusually for the Bard, the plot of this early play, - original to Shakespeare - could be written on the back of a matchbox, as could the action. The charm lies in the delight in language - the verbal sparring by Berowne and Rosaline strongly anticipates that of Beatrice and Benedict - and other comic business.
The King of Navarre persuades three chums to renounce worldly pleasures and embrace the contemplative life for three years. Unfortunately for them their solemn vow coincides with arrival of the Princess of France and three ladies-in-waiting. Unfortunate, as all four men fall deeply and madly in love.
Productions of Love's Labour's Lost, lexically convoluted and heavily punning as it is, succeed or fail according to the dexterity with which its verbal thickets are negotiated. Happily in this case, director Andrew Hilton and cast are surefooted, speaking trippingly.
Words, as Wodehouse once had it, come out of this lot like bees out of a barn and, in truth, it is hard to keep up at times. Paul Currier lightens the workload with a broad comic turn as Don Adriano de Armado - all moustache, mangled vowels and matador-style outfit - before the main comic business gets underway in the second half in which Jonathan Nibbs delights with an inspired piece of silliness as an aged pedant roped into playing Alexander the Great.
Also meriting particular praise are Saskia Portway as the Princess of France and Matthew Thomas as Berowne. The Edwardian-style costumes by Vicki Cowan-Ostersen are typically elegant and unfussy and the props are spartan.
Given the meagreness of its resources, SATTF is a marvel and it would be a tragedy if the company, which has consistently punched well above its weight over the last seven years, should have to close.
- Pete Wood