I must profess, before reviewing this rendition of As You Like It, that I had never seen the play before; as introductions go, this was certainly a delightful one!
I must admit, it took me a while to initially warm to the performance, as I often found myself questioning the point of some of their artistic choices. For starters, the modern reinterpretation they had chosen for the first scenes was not very clear without reading the programme and whilst it did not exactly detract from the interpretation, it didn’t really do much for it either.
“Their youth provided a refreshing realism”
However, this contrasted with the the more hedonistic festival setting of the Forest of Arden, where the play really hit its stride. As the cast was made up of a very talented bunch, their youth provided a refreshing realism to the festival scenes and their giddy abandon was well-suited to such a farce. Rosalind and Orlando made for a very convincing couple in love, although, call me a cynic, Shakespeare’s tendencies for instantaneous love often makes his work slightly implausible.
The comedy most often came from the non-verbal touches, whether it was a sheep-based transition, a rave sequence or the terrific casting as the rather burly Leighton Piper as both dreaded wrestler, Charles and the dim-witted delicate shepherdess, Audrey (both roles, may I say, he did marvellously).
“A truly fantastic performance”
Another choice that confused me was the merging of Jaques and Touchstone (a character I had not known until after seeing the play), which forged Jaques’ melancholy and intellectual philosophy with his affection for Audrey.
There is no doubt that Meg Lewis as Jaques was a truly fantastic performance, with both tone and physicality nailing the casual observer attitude complete with beer in-hand, but the jump from his morose narration to persistent courtship seemed slightly incongruous. Once the role switched, she however acted very well as the reluctant lover. Also, whoever thought of introducing the character to the music of This Charming Man is a genius.
“Every single cast member was marvellous”
Beshlie St Maur Thorp as Rosalind was an excellent and clearly multi-faceted performer who lead the piece well, although I am still unsure whether the usage of a cast on her foot was a creative choice or an actual injury sustained (whilst I hope for her sake it is the former, it didn’t really make sense as a plot piece if it was).
However, it must be said that every single cast member was marvellous in their own way, whether it was Phoebe’s disdain, Silvius’s lovestruck puppy-ness or the rather novel and hilarious William, who is Jaques’ love rival for Audrey (a sheep).
It also must be said for the play itself that there lacks much actual conflict after the first two scenes, with the main resolving happening offstage, resulting in it feeling a little anti-climactic. The ending itself is a crowd-pleaser, with the cast coming together in a charming, if a little ramshackle, dance number – which I can vouch for having been plucked from the audience to participate.
Whilst my dancing cannot be accounted for, overall, a fun night out indeed!
Rating: 4 stars
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