EDGE Philadelphia speaks with Globe Theatre actor Trystan Gravelle

October 29, 2009

No labor, all love for British actor in Shakespeare comedy

Lewis Whittington

EDGE Contributor

Thursday Oct 29, 2009

In Love’s Labour’s Lost, four randy and hapless scholars vow chastity for the sake of studying metaphysics, only to be undone by four beauties of the French court. Let the Shakespearean games begin.

And they come courtesy of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, the London-based company housed in a recreation of the famous Elizabethan theater on London’s South Bank. The company has brought their 2007 production to the United States that brings them to eight cities over three months.

Split tights on occasion

The rowdy production, directed by Dominic Dromgoole, featuring sumptuous costume designs by Jonathan Fensom. This LLL is gold standard - the dialogue sings, the hi-low brow comedy sparks and the ensemble playing is world-class. "Dominic Dromgoole’s zestful production succeeds in captivating the audience to a degree that I would not have thought possible... It’s a treat," wrote the critic from London’s Independent. And the New York Times concurred: "’As dewy as a morning in May... this production lands every joke."

EDGE spoke with the company’s Trystan Gravelle when the company came to Philadelphia earlier this week. Gravelle is featured as the horny Berowne, who is ever ready with deft and saucy soliloquies. Offstage the actor is an avid footballer and was scouting Old City Philadelphia for the odd rugby field the day the company arrived.

"We got here at two in the morning and it’s been absolutely amazing. It’s a great city, and I walked the breadth of it yesterday and saw Ben Franklin’s house and the Delaware," the actor said in a phone interview from his hotel room.

Gravelle, from South Wales, attended RADA on a full scholarship and has starred in productions at Royal Shakespeare Company and the Globe. The actor, while cast as a classic Elizabethan leading man in the vented chocolate satin breeches and shoulder cape, doesn’t bury his Welsh accent; instead uses it as part of Berowne’s musical language.

It was a point picked up by the Independent critic, Paul Taylor: "Trystan Gravelle gives a performance of real comic clout, equipping this wordsmith with a Welsh accent that deftly suggests a windbag emotional defensiveness."

Gravelle says he doesn’t prefer comedy or drama, "It doesn’t matter. I enjoy doing any of them. You have a laugh doing what you’re doing and that’s all I ask for," he said. "This production is a good bit of fun."

He did note, though, he had some apprehension approaching the role, "I thought it was a lot to handle. It’s very wordy."

"We did it two years ago at the Globe where you are performing in front of 2000 people and the lights are on, so you can see them react. My job is to get them tuned into the language. And if it’s a bit off key you can easily lose the audience. It’s a challenge. The imagery is what you want to get everyone engaged in."

Whether it’s love speeches or food fights, Dromgoole’s inventive direction keeps everything in motion and is aided by great period music composed by Claire van Kampen. Gravelle credits his fellow players and the director.

"Dominic to his great credit has a cast that has fun with this, runs with the ball, enjoys the text and sets the house on fire. I haven’t had a day dealing with egos or a dull moment. So positive, focused, and passionate, and it spreads to everybody else." He adds, "And I love the Elizabethan garb" even though admits to splitting his tights on occasion.

Gravelle has to keep off the rugby field for now. "I’m just recovering from a knee operation. So maybe I’ll try to work a game of rounders, which is pretty much like baseball." He’s in luck, this week anyway, Philly is baseball central.

Love’s Labour Lost through Oct. 31at the Annenberg Center, Philadelphia, PA. For more information visit