Kenneth Branagh Goes Musical in Love's Labour's Lost

CBC Radio, June 2000
Laurie Brown - On The Arts
*Thanks to Renie Pickman-Thoon

Toronto - The man who made Shakespeare on film all the rage is back, but Kenneth Branagh may have had his fill of tragedy. Now he's adapted, directed and starring in a goofy musical version of one of the lesser comedies, Love's Labour's Lost.

The play is a bit loopy to start with. The King of Navarre and three buddies swear off women for three years in order to better study philosophy, but then the Princess of France, played by Alicia Silverstone, shows up with three lovely lady friends.

Branagh slashes the text, adds a newsreel to keep the plot straight, while his cast keeps breaking out into the classic songs of Cole Porter, George Gershwin and Irving Berlin.

On the Arts host Laurie Brown talks with Kenneth Branagh about the film.

Excerpt from the interview:

Laurie Brown: Well, I think you should be severely punished for having so much fun.

Kenneth Branagh: Well, would you like to arrange that anyway? I could come to your place, you could come to my place.

Laurie: You pick the poison.

Kenneth: We did have a lot of fun. We were punished a bit because it was physically quite hard to be doing a musical, a bit of a shock to the system. But it was enormous fun and it was part of our intention because the hope was to give the audience some fun with something that would be unusual.

Laurie: Was this truly the first time that you have done the singing and dancing thing?

Kenneth: I haven't done it for a while. When I was at drama school, we had to sing and dance all the time. I'm not a natural at either, but I like them both very much. I can scrub up a bit and it comes together after a while. But it was the first time I had directed a musical and the first time of being introduced to this strange sort of camp that we had.

We'd arrive at 8 o'clock in the morning. There would be two hours of singing and dancing as a group and then during the course of the day, you would be singing or dancing or doing a Shakespeare scene. That made it adventurous and exciting, but demanding. We were definitely united and bonded over the terror of one of us messing up at a key moment.

Laurie: I would have loved to have been in the cast because it reminded me of a great college production. I mean it had everything. It had slightly thin singing. It had some very silly dancing and some great broad slapstick.

Kenneth: We certainly weren't trying to parody anything. We were doing as best as we possibly could. We were unapologetic about doing it as we did it. The primary aim was to get all of the singing and dancing to come out of the character. I didn't want to start the other way. It's not just a rationale for how it turned out, but I didn't want anything to be too slick.

I always wanted to make a film which had a deep, deep silliness in which stuffed sheep can fall over and people can fly up to the ceiling because they feel so much in love. The escapism of that appeals to me, not as an avoidism of life, but just as a moment in which you can indulge a certain delightful dream.

Wouldn't it be nice if we all looked marvellous and when you do fall in love with someone, suddenly a top hat and tails appeared from nowhere and an orchestra struck up, and you were able to dance beautifully in some beautiful place.

Watch Laurie's entire interview with Kenneth Branagh.

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