The first time I saw a professional production of “As You Like It” was as a teenager – the all male Cheek By Jowl production with Adrian Lester as Rosalind and Tom Hollander as Celia no less- it had a great impact on me in the early nineties as an aspiring actress, and this production had much to live up to, inspite of it’s beautiful setting.
Happily the production amply fulfilled expectation – though there can be no better place to watch Shakespeare than under the twinkling trees at this beautiful open air theatre. Both the production and the clever set designs inspired.
We open on a soulless , dystopian, rubbish strewn landscape beleaguered by rain, symbolic of the depressed and negative empire ruled by the corrupt and embittered court of Duke Frederick. This magically gives way in Act Two to the abundant, eco- friendly, hippy dwelling Forest of Arden full of music and mirth despite the inclement weather.
The uniformly strong acting company put across Shakespeare’s verse with wit and meaning; making the sometimes verbose and complex language accessible to all, and the plot cracks along, accompanied with mostly inspired music giving us light relief from the weighty text.
I particularly enjoyed the actor musician element of the piece, and my favourite song was Phebe’s in Act Three in which she was ably joined by Amy Booth Steel‘s Audrey.
The very watchable Maureen Beattie commanded the stage in all her scenes as Jaques, in particular her interpretation of that most famous of prose “All the World’s A Stage…”.
Edward Hogg as Orlando and Olivia Vinall‘s Rosalind show both comedy and pathos as protagonists and did a great job leading this fantastic company; but for me the performance of the night goes to Danny Kirrane as Touchstone. An utterly hilarious interpretation of the fool character that really gelled the production together-this reviewer found herself willing the character back onstage, keenly following his through story with Audrey and really appreciating his impeccable comic timing.
Nowhere is Shakespeare’s wit as well displayed as within the writing of “As You Like It” with so many throw away quotes; as Rosalind warns when rebuffing Phebe “Sell where you can. You are not for all markets..” I think with this production, perhaps Shakespeare can be.
Reviewed by Nicole Faraday
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