Catalysing What? Historical Remediation, the Musical, and What of Love's Labour's Lasts
Author(s)Henderson, Diana E.
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The twenty-first century began with a much anticipated – and, by most measures, disappointing – musical production of Love's Labour's Lost on film. Five years later, a much more successful musical adaptation of the play called The Big Life: The Ska Musical provided a breakthrough in theatre history, becoming the first ‘British black musical’ to reach London's commercial West End. This play's recollection of the Windrush immigrants and its integration of ska rhythms with an updated script seemed fresh and transformative; by contrast, most critics and scholars deemed the film musical's use of history nostalgic or superficial, and the deployment of its artistic genre partially successful at best. Nevertheless, a decade on, Kenneth Branagh's film is available on DVD and has gained a more positive overall response from IMDb (Internet Movie Database) respondents, at least, than its early reception might have predicted. Numerous critical articles have examined its nuances and relationship to the Hollywood musical tradition. Meanwhile, Paul Sirett and Paul Joseph's West End hit, despite rave reviews, a BBC Radio adaptation, and even the enduring presence of its opening number on YouTube, has as yet failed to ‘cross over’ to Broadway or to screen production, and thus to more lasting and international success. It has not gained acknowledgement in recent critical editions of Love's Labour's Lost, nor generated discernible scholarly analysis. Beyond merely lamenting the primacy of film/video over ‘live’ theatre or decrying the necessity for celebrities in artistic production, what might we say about this turn of events?
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Humanities. Literature Section
Cambridge University Press
Henderson, Diane E. "Catalysing What? Historical Remediation, the Musical, and What of Love's Labour's Lasts." Shakespeare Survey, edited by Peter Holland, Cambridge University Press, 2011, 97-113. © 2011 Cambridge University Press
Author's final manuscript