AS YOU LIKE IT
by William Shakespeare.
Tobacco Factory Raleigh Road Southville
To 22 March, and 22, 23, 26 April, 1, 2 May.
Mon-Wed, Sat 7.30pm; Thu, Fri 8pm Mat Sat 2.30pm.
then tour to 21 June 2014.
Runs 2hr 55min One interval.
TICKETS: 0117 902 0344.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 18 February.
And there’s a lot to like.
There are new red benches around Bristol Tobacco Factory’s auditorium this year, the 15th Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory (SATTF) has taken-over the place for a couple of spring productions which have gained them a high and wide reputation – hence the now annual tour, undertaken this year by regular director Andrew Hilton’s opening production of Shakespeare’s comedy.
Allocated seating’s new too, but thankfully the down-to-earth sense of the place – famously matched by Hilton’s approach to Shakespeare – remains. Though plain never means bland. While the theme of a pastoral ideal is shared by Shakespeare with Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia, the other SATTF production this year, both plays question how idylllic this is in practice.
Duke Senior and his followers make the best of the Forest of Arden, but they’ve been exiled there; the clash among the less exalted court and country characters balances criticism of both those places, while the sight of Senior’s men huddled in their coats ensures “Winter and rough weather” aren’t forgotten.
With its lack of hiding places, and four stone pillars around the stage, which is surrounded by the audience, this auditorium demands good sense and honesty. Thankfully they are matched by clarity and consistency. Jack Wharrier’s Orlando has a firm way with an arm-lock, making his victory over professional wrestler Charles credible, but – like Henry V – is tongue-tied in love. Yet this isn’t politically-convenient matchmaking but romantic intensity on his side and Rosalind’s.
Silenced by affection, it’s no wonder he turns to feeble love-verse, mocked by the play’s witty wordsmiths. But love in Arden is too much even for Dorothea Myer-Bennett’s resourceful Rosalind, a lady who definitely protests too much she was counterfeiting grief at news of Orlando’s injury.
Myer-Bennett’s lovely, energetic performance earns Rosalind the right to bring the love-ties together. As her companion Celia, Daisy May makes unobtrusively clear she’s aware of sinking from co-adventurer with her friend to gooseberry, resorting to a good read whenever Rosalind and Orlando met. Never has a Celia better deserved her surprise happy ending.
But perceptions and pleasures flow as naturally as the seasons through all this happy production.
Orlando: Jack Wharrier.
Adam: Paul Nicholson.
Oliver/Lord: Matthew Thomas.
Dennis/Lord/Silvius: Ben Tolley..
Charles/Lord: William: Peter Basham.
Celia: Daisy May.
Rosalind: Dorothea Myer-Bennett.
Touchstone: Vic Llewellyn.
Le Beau/Martext: Vincenzo Pellegrino.
Duke Frederick/Duke Senior: Chris Bianchi.
Hisperia/Audrey: Hannah Lee.
Soldire/Phebe: Sophie Whittaker.
Lord/Amiens: Offue Okegbe.
Lord/Corin: Alan Coveney.
Lord/Jaques: Paul Cuurrier.
Director: Alan Hilton.
Designer: Harriet de Winton.
Lighting: Matthew Graham.
Sound/Composer: Elizabeth Purnell.
Dialect coach: Gary Owston.
Choreographer/Fight director: Jonathan Howell.
Fight captain: Ben Tolley.
Associate director: Dominic Power.
Assistant director: Nicholas Finegan.