Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Review: As You Like It (RSC, Stratford)

by Emily Duff

As You Like It, directed by Maria Aberg, music by Laura Marling

As You Like It is one of Shakespeare’s best known comedies. My A2 English class travelled 3 hours to see the Royal Shakespeare Company’s performance of it on 20th April. Now, you may not know this, but 23rd April is Shakespeare’s birthday. We hadn’t really anticipated that Stratford, on a sunny weekend two days before, would therefore be absolutely heaving with Shakespeare fans, theatre go-ers and people dressed as Tudors. After eventually finding a parking space at the Park and Ride (a new experience for several of us…“you park…and ride the bus?!”), we made it to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

Nicolas Tennant as Touchstone
and Alex Waldmann as Orlando
The performance was fantastic. The play opened with the thrust stage covered in leaf debris, slowly swept about by a moody Orlando. Behind him, a rotation with tall wooden pillars symbolised oppression and the confines of the court run by a drunken and tyrannical Duke Frederick.

 The court characters certainly looked the part; they were dressed in formidable black gowns and suits, but their stylised hand jive failed to impress me. Neither did the rectangular pit full of fragments of rubber that started off as the wrestling pit and then just seemed to cause mess and get in the way for the rest of the first act.

Everything changed however, once the characters reached the legendary Forest of Arden. The wooden pillars on the rotation moved to become trees and the characters were all dressed in bright colours with patterned jumpers, wellies, beanie hats and guitars. The festival theme, including the Duke Senior kitted out as an aging rock star, certainly added to the magical atmosphere, where all rules are suspended, especially when the priest entered as a drugged-up Jamaican with dreadlocks.

Pippa Nixon as Rosalind
Pippa Nixon played Rosalind-turned-Ganymede and she was a very good man, if that can be a compliment. Her funniest moment was when she discovered her love was in the forest and pulled down her trousers asking, “What shall I do with my doublet and hose?”

Oliver Ryan was the melancholy Jaques, brilliant merely because he was so fantastic at being sad when everyone around him was celebrating. Phoebe was played by Natalie Klamar and was hilarious as the shepherdess who falls in love with a woman pretending to be a man.

However, two actors stole the show for me.

First was Alex Waldmann as Orlando. From a girly point of view, he was certainly nice to watch, especially when wrestling. But he also conveyed the complete and utter adoration that Orlando has for Rosalind, while being manipulated and flirted with by Ganymede, who (in this production at least) he doesn’t realise is his love in disguise.
Joanna Horton as Celia
I found Joanna Horton, as Celia, best of all, though. Celia is often a character left in the background. Horton, however, was able to use the spaces where she doesn’t speak to great effect, creeping behind trees, sitting on a fridge and lying on the ground in an attempt to eavesdrop. She made the most of all of her lines and brought Celia out from the shadows and into the limelight.

I was a little bemused by the deluge of rain that suddenly fell during the wedding celebrations but my class assure me that this was a lovely symbol of nature affirming the love the various couples felt for each other and allowing it to develop in a wild environment.

Also, the continual dropping of half-eaten pears, half-finished beers and various ribbons and papers all over the rubber bits (that had been spread across the whole stage during the interval) meant that although the performance was funny, interesting, and captivating, it left me wanting to sweep everything into a big bin bag.
See Fay Davies' review of James McAvoy and Claire Foy in Macbeth.

1 comment:

  1. Gold’s proficiency with the camera and the lining up of shots, as well as his obvious knowledge of Shakespeare (this is not the only BBC Shakespeare series he did), are paramount here. So are the set designs by Jerry Scott, and I’d call attention to four of these in particular.


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