Lovely Little Losers

Date: 2015
Source: Lovely Little Losers
Cast: Reuben Hudson (Stanley Balthazar Jones), Jake McGregor (Benedick Hobbes), Bonnie Simmonds (Freddie Kingston), Caleb Wells (Peter Donaldson), Jessica Stansfield (Meg Winter), Harriett Maire (Beatrice Duke), Pearl Kennedy (Hero Duke), George Maunsell (John Donaldson), Phodiso Dintwe, Mouce Young, Ella McLeod, Daniel McBride, Kalisha Wasasala, Bronwyn Ensor, Robbie Nicol
Credits: Creators: The Candle Wasters; Writers: Claris Jacobs, Elsie Bollinger, Minnie Grace, Sally Bollinger; Directors: Elsie and Sally Bollinger; Producer: Minnie Grace; Production Designer: Claris Jacobs; Trailer Editor; Editors for the Series: Claris Jacobs, Elsie Bollinger, Minnie Grace, Sally Bollinger; Sound Director: Sarah Jessica Golding; Cinematographers: Claris Jacobs, Harriett Maire, Sally Bollinger; Production Runner: Calum Gittins; Clapper Loader: Elsie Bollinger, Jen Smith, Minnie Grace, Shannon-Mae Read; Lighting: Shannon-Mae Read, Sally Bollinger; Motion Graphics/VFX: Carlo Grunwald
Duration: 84 videos (including trailer)

The most imaginative, ambitious and successful works of Shakespeare on video at the moment are being produced by the Candle Wasters, a four-women creative team from New Zealand. Their first production was the multi-episode Not Much To Do, an updating to Much Ado About Nothing set among high school students in New Zealand. Lovely Little Losers, ingeniously structured as a sequel to the first series with some of the same characters (so you can find out what happened next to Beatrice and Benedick), adapts Love’s Labour’s Lost to the same twenty-first century New Zealand setting, with everyone now at university.

The set-up is that four students (three male, one female) at a Wellington university share a flat and have complicated personal lives, each being losers in one way or another. To impose some order on flat life, they decide to establish some rules, which include a curfew and a ban on all relationships, the central conceit of Love’s Labour’s Lost being that four companions deny themselves the company of women. The unfolding series then shows how impossible it is to live by such rules. The story is told through a series of vlogs and musical interludes, alongside accompanying social media feeds, in which the various characters reveal the thoughts and feelings natural to a generation accustomed to sharing everything and living in the presence of cameras.

The series takes a while to get going, riffing on the characters, and when the complication is added of the flat rules (in episode 14) it feels as forced and unlikely as does Shakespeare’s original. Certainly some among those of the series’ many followers were puzzled, as YouTube comments indicate, but once the premise has been established the series works through the assorted dilemmas and their resolution with wit and style. Every video trick in the book is used, usually self-referentially so, with the series building on lessons learned making Not Much To Do. One does think that the omnipresent camera pushes at the barriers of what even a twenty-first century student might be prepared to tolerate – to a degree that maybe one of the flat rules that might have been imposed could have been a ban on being filmed.

The contrivance of the situation is more than made up for by the freshness of the performances. The students are no more annoying than students have always been from Shakespeare’s time onward, and are played with a vivacity and conviction – by skillful cast – that clearly strikes a chord with followers of the series. The Shakespeareaness lies not only in the plot borrowing and in the use of his songs and sonnets, but in the forensic exploration of love and desire (straight and gay), and in the substitution of visual conceits for literary conceits. As with Not Much To Do, it shows how one way forward for Shakespeare in an online age is to free the plays from the two hours’ traffic of the stage and to break then down into their constituent parts, letting each of these take on a life of their own through sharing.

Lovely Little Losers ran throughout 2015, with eighty main episodes (each 3-5 minutes long), three extras and a trailer. You wouldn’t want to watch the whole thing in one go – it can get a bit samey (all those scenes in the one flat) and cute – but of course you’re not meant to. It’s there to be followed in fragments. The sequel to this sequel, Bright Summer Night (adapting A Midsummer Night’s Dream) begins on July 8th…

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