Written by Clive Swift, Richard Cottrell, Corin Redgrave, and John Fortune adapted from William Shakespeare's "Love's Labours Lost"

Directed by John Tydeman

Ian McKellen in the role of Holofernes

ADC Theatre
Lyric Opera House Hammersmith, London

1 May 1959 - 5 July 1959


Words from Ian McKellen

May Week in Cambridge celebrates the end of the examinations. There are May Balls in selected colleges and the ADC members let their hair down with a jollity like this musical from Shakespeare's "Love's Labours Lost". It was an ingenious adaptation, set around 1900. Berowne and his student friends each had a witty love scene and song in appropriate pastiche — Wilde, Zola, Chekov and Ibsen. Mike Burrell as the vicar Nathaniel and I as the pedant Holofernes, reprised our rickety double-act from Henry 4th part two and brought the house down with the lyrics based on Shakespeare's longest word.

All over the world, wherever you go

From the pygmy in the south to the Eskimo,

People should be governed, don't you know,

By Honorificabilititudinatibo

And wherever you go by the land or sea

From the Elephant and Castle or the Ritz for tea,

Upper-crusted people will agree

On Honorificabilitidinatibi.

Money, love and marriage

Are grist to this honorif mill

And if this thesis doesn't convince

You can always fall back on honorificabil

And then of course there's ilitude,

If you're feeling in the mood,

But the golden rule that's made for us

Is honorificabilititudinatibus.

You may feel faintly nervous with only an inatibus
But just add on an honorif
And we think that you will agree with us —
That although icab may be rather hard,
When you're suffering from the blues,
Just add icabilif to your honorif
And, after broodin', pop in udin.
Then go the whole hog, singing with us —

I was, and remain, in awe of the writers. Clive Swift composed all the catchy and romantic tunes which he played on the piano with Jackie Thompson (King Henry to my Prince Hal at Bolton School). The lyrics and book were by undergraduates who where aiming for the professional theatre, where Equity made John Wood change his name to Fortune.

For a week later on we played the show in the original Lyric Opera House, Hammersmith and on £12 a week, this was my first paid job as an actor. — Ian McKellen, December 2006

Comments and Reviews

Cambridge May Week production; London, Lyric Opera House Hammersmith (29 June - 5 July 1959)
"Some neat songs, and Ian McKellen showed signs of promise." — Harold Hobson, Sunday Times 5 July 1959


Banner photo: Holofernes (Ian McKellen) and Nathaniel (Michael Burrell)


Full Cast List


Next Play: THE THREE SISTERS (Cambridge)