William Shakespeare


Maly Drama Theatre – Theatre of Europe (MDT), St. Petersburg
Director Lev Dodin

Shakespeare read as Cervantes

Lev Dodin handed Shakespeare’s comedy over to his former students who had just joined the Theatre of Europe. The young actors were planning to perform a hymn of love and youth, but halfway through when Dodin joined rehearsals the comedy gave proof to the theory that youth and love are alien to each other. The King of Navarre, the French princess and their court emerge as naïve children who have outwitted themselves and are obsessed with desires of the flesh. At the same time, however, the half-witted old man Armano, played by Igor Ivanov the powerful veteran actor, starts courting a pretty peasant woman and surfaces as a real Don Quixote devoting Shakespeare’s sonnets to his Dulcinea.

Elena Kovalskaya

Until the very end the play contains witty and precise psychological and humoristic details along with substitutions, disguises, doubts and confessions. When the meeting of three loving couples turns into an operatic parody, it is time to pinch yourself. Am I really watching a Lev Dodin production and when did he surrender himself to such a free, no strings attached theatrical performance? But here a dove flies onto the stage with news of the death of the French king, the young women should leave, and the young people only remain to embrace empty trees. […] Sooner or later, the labour of human life turns out to be barren and in the end this is difficult to accept.

Roman Dolzhansky

Lev Dodin is the most serious theatre director in Russia and probably in the world. And that is why his decision to take on a Shakespearean comedy as part of the Maly Drama Theatre repertoire, and what is more, one of the most bewildering and pretentious plays, appears like an eccentric act on his part. However, having chosen the comedy Love’s Labour’s Lost he initially translated its title, and as a result did not stage a comedy but a very serious and melancholic drama. The Shakespearean parody about how the King of Navarre and his companions are determined to cut themselves off from their passion through sport and a no-women policy, only to be unexpectedly gripped by desire for the visiting French princess and her ladies, is cut. Dodin trims the play from all sides and turns it into a sad reflection about the strange and uncertain aspects of passion, about deceit and the self-delusion of love which leaves its followers with their labour lost.

Rossiyskaya newspaper,
Alyona Karas