AS YOU LIKE IT: William Shakespeare
RSC, Courtyard, Stratford.
Runs: 2h 50m, one interval, in repertory till 3 October.
Review: Rod Dungate, Wed 29 April 2009.
Head but not heart.
Michael Boyd’s production reaches your head but not your heart – or at least, not often reaches your heart. Which is a shame.
At the centre of this production are the loveliest Rosalind and Orlando you could wish for. Katy Stephens shapes her performance beautifully. At court she has a quiet strength but never reaches above her status; in the country she takes charge. With great humour she steps into her breeches as an entirely credible man. It’s good to see Jonjo O’Neill back at Stratford – one of our finest young actors. He combines in Orlando strength, good humour and a touching open naiveté. Bring these two actors together in the wooing scenes and the production moves onto another plane. Truly worth waiting for – every moment.
Add to this pair Mariah Gale’s Celia – spirited, witty and underpinned with subtlety. Then there’s Peter Shorey’s touching and dignified servant, Adam, and Geoffrey Freshwater’s relaxed Corin – both much to be admired.
So why does this intelligent production miss the bulls-eye? It strives too hard, is too tense so that we can never feel at ease. Clarence Smith brings a telling touch of aristocracy to the exiled Duke but keeps us at bay with his volume. Richard Katz has it all intellectually in place as Touchstone but pushes so hard he appears manic rather than comic. I love the tension between Forbes Masson’s Jaques’ ability to sing beautifully but his inability to share that beauty. However, this Jaques isn’t touchingly melancholic, he’s just bitter.
Boyd opts for a clever and effective (should I say efficient?) set – design by Tom Piper. It’s fine for the Court but as the healing forest of Arden it never is able to embrace us.
Boyd has cleverly incorporated the various masques and dances seamlessly into his production drawing on our rich folk and pagan heritage – including true tying of knots for the concluding weddings.
Everybody now needs to relax and enjoy.
Oliver: Charles Aitken.
Jaques de Boys: Peter Peverley.
Orlando: Jonjo O’Neill.
Adam: Peter Shorey.
Dennis: Peter Peverley.
Juke Frederick: Sandy Neilson.
Celia: Mariah Gale.
Rosalind: Katy Stephens.
Touchstone: Richard Katz.
Le Beau: Ansu Kabia.
Charles: David Carr.
Hisperia: Debbie Korley.
Duke Ferdinand: Clarence Smith.
Lord Amiens: Dharmesh Patel.
First Lord: James Howard.
Jaques: Forbes Masson.
Corin: Geoffrey Freshwater.
Silvius: James Tucker.
Audrey: Sophie Russell.
Sir Oliver Martext: James Traherne.
Pheobe: Christine Entwisle.
William: Dyfan Dwyfor.
Directed by: Michael Boyd.
Designed by: Tom Piper.
Lighting by: Wolfgang Gobbel.
Music by: John Woolf.
Sound Designed by: Andrew Franks.
Choreography and Movement by: Struan Leslie.
Company Text and Voice Work by: Alison Bomber.
Additional Company Movement by: Lucy Cullingford.
Fights by: Terry King.
Assistant Director: Michael Fentiman.
Music Director: John Wolf.
Casting by: Hannah Miller