AS YOU LIKE IT
by William Shakesepare.
Wadham College Gardens Parks Road OX1 3PN To 15 August 2014.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed &Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
TICKETS: 01865 305305.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 18 July.
Natural elegance and theatrical skill delightfully combine.
Earth probably has not anything to show more fair than this comedy on a balmy summer eve in Wadham’s arboreal gardens, a mere county south of the old Forest of Arden which must have been in William Shakespeare’s mind alongside the Ardennes where character names suggest the setting might be.
Director Michael Oakley makes a virtue of the cuts needed for a company of eight actors, and to bring the show in at a sensible length for open-air summer audiences. Anyone coming new to Shakespeare this way is twice-blessed, with a production that’s clear but also thoughtful.
Shakespeare, like other classical comedy-writers, resolved comic plots with outrageous unlikelihoods, here magnified by having Rosalind Steele’s mousy female cleric turn invading evil away – she who couldn’t even prevent concupiscence between Touchstone and Audrey while accompanying their dance on an accordion.
At first malignity rules; the audience sitting on open grass as the cast emerge from the court-like College and perform a stiff, fragmented dance to Nicholas Lloyd Webber’s music with its satirical, Prokofiev-like shifts. Then David Alwyn’s Orlando shows his wrestling skill in combating his tyrannical brother, before the wrestling-match that brother hopes will be the end of him.
Soon, though, we walk from court for forest, moving to a tree-scaped Arden (among the cuts is Shakespeare’s brief return to court, letting the action stay in the forest).for scenes ranging from George Haynes’s wild dancing as cross-cast Audrey to the moving realisation Orlando’s loyal old servant Adam has made it too late to Arden, his death one sign there is no perfect world – Jaques’ silent departure with his suitcase is another reminder.
Alongside the energy and joy Rosalind brings to Arden (as Viola does to Illyria in Twelfth Night), Rebecca Tanwen shows her heartfelt affection as she gingerly takes the handkerchief covered in Orlando’s blood. Alwyn, meanwhile, shows true male inhibition as he veers in and out of the love-game of pretending Ganymede is Rosalind, his impatience staunched only by clasping Rosalind’s pendent under his shirt.
Thoughtful and energetic, this is about as good as anyone can reasonably expect it to get.
Orlando: David Alwyn.
Celia: Charlotte Hamblin.
Silvius/Amiens/Audrey: George Haynes.
Oliver/Charles/Jaques: Alexander McWilliam.
Duke Frederick/Duke Senior/Corin: David Shelley.
Phoebe/Madame La Belle/Olivia Martext: Rosalind Steele.
Rosalind: Rebecca Tanwen.
Adam/Touchstone: Rob Witcomb.:
Director: Michael Oakley.
Music: Nicholas Lloyd Webber.
Music Supervisor: Rosalind Steele.
Choreographer/Movement: Mark Smith.
Costume: Adrian Lillie.
Fight director: Ronin Traynor.
Assistant director: Charlie Parham.