AS YOU LIKE IT
by William Shakespeare.
Lady Margaret Hall Fyfield Road OX2 6QA To 12 September 2015.
7.30pm 31 July, 1. 3, 4, 6-8, 11-15, 18-22, 25-28, 31 Aug,
7pm 1-3, 8-12 Sept.
Mat 2.30pm 1, 15 Apr, 9, 12 Sept.
Runs 2hr 55min One interval.
TICKETS: 01865 766266.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 30 July.
An inventive visit to Arden.
While Oxford Shakespeare Company continues to enjoy the splendour of Wadham College’s verdure-encircled lawn with Twelfth Night, Creation Theatre plays Shakespeare’s other great comedy of romance among asylum-seekers in their second year at Lady Margaret Hall, its prim suburban site belying extensive grounds with wild wood, luxuriant foliage and a river.
Tom Littler’s finely cast production uses the topographical variety as we promenade during the first half, ending full-circle at our seats for the rest of the show. The play has a progressive sense of migration and audience movement reinforces the idea of banishment to Forest of Arden, with the sense of dislocation apt for the World War II setting.
Such time-shifts usually end-up awkward and forced; the only trouble here is maintaining the energy that sets-up the idea. It’s present as we arrive, trooping past sentry-boxes with lazily-kept memorabilia, then seeps into the action with Charles the professional wrestler’s Nazi-style salute, and signs in French warning us not to listen to the BBC or reminding us of curfew time, and that Duke Senior is banished.
Rosalind and Celia’s decamping from their fashionable, languorous existence becomes their salvation; they emerge as independent spirits when they lead us from a privileged life under arbitrary power for one of self-determination in Arden.
The spaciousness helps some aspects of the play more than others. The travelling and sometimes fascinating distances give a sense of the forest’s vastness but, with the necessary doubling, underplay the contrast between the two Dukes and the sense of the exiled forest community. And moments of Globe-style indulgence in groundling humour have varying success (the joke about peasant characters being unwilling to speak English is overused first time round).
Yet Littler’s adoption of Vichy France and its constricted appearance of democracy within the hefty clutch of dictatorship fits the play’s mood perfectly, unlocking a political perspective on the tensions roughening the path of true love for Rosalind and Orlando.
Rhiannon Summers’ Rosalind increasingly finds the spirit in herself that’s evident in Joe Eyre’s Orlando from the opening when he’s carrying-out the menial tasks ordered by his elder brother.
Orlando: Joe Eyre.
Charles/Silvius/William: Nick Trumble.
Celia: Julia Goulding.
Oliver/Jacques/Waiter: Timothy Allsop.
Duke Frederick/Duke Senuir/Corin/Audrey: Jonathan Oliver.
Touchstone/Adam: Morgan Philpott.
Phoebe/La Belle: Clare Humphrey.
Director: Tom Littler.
Designer: Ryan Dawson Laight.
Lighting: Ashley Bale.
Sound: Matt Eaton.
Composer/Musical Director: Tom Attwood.
Fight director: Philip d’Orléans.
Associate Lighting: John Welton.
Associate sound: Max Pappenheim.