AS YOU LIKE IT
by William Shakespeare.
The Roundhouse Chalk Farm Road NW1 8EH.7.15pm 27, 29 Jan, 3 Feb. Mat 1.15pm 5 Feb.
Audio-described/Captioned: 5 Feb 1.15pm.
Runs 3hr One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 482 8008.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 17 January.
Likeable As You Like It, stronger on ideas than the comic spirit.
In from Stratford-upon-Avon, Michael Boyd’s production of As You Like It indicates that the Royal Shakespeare Company’s reconfigured Stratford main-house, with audiences embracing three sides of the stage, matches the dynamic of the plays.
The white wall backing the open space neither suggests not invites pictorial images of the forest of Arden, and makes only slight reference to the early court scenes, though a point’s made when debonair Oliver seems so kind towards violent younger brother Orlando – until the door closes, isolating them on stage, and Oliver’s cruelty shows through.
Through this great central door usurping Duke Frederick’s court, a drilled group, processes powerfully yet pointlessly over the stage, simply to exit the other side. Its pointlessness matches the Duke’s unreasonable treatment of Orlando and Rosalind.
Katy Stephens’ Rosalind is so convincing in male stance and voice it seems a shame she reverts to her female self. The aspects of herself she explores in the forest make her final dress-bound, lipstick-glammed appearance seem reductive, despite her smiles. Never has it seemed more necessary her (attractive singing) voice is given an Epilogue.
Rosalind dominates the court exiles’ story, though Mariah Gale ensures Celia’s tendency to sit or stand by and watch doesn’t make the character invisible – the hunters’ horn song becomes her blue-lit nightmare, another sign of the sexual awareness Stephens’ ensures is part of Rosalind’s identity; forests are, after all, earthy places.
Richard Katz’s effortful Touchstone soon becomes detached from the women he’s accompanied; for all he condemns forest-life, he becomes caught up in it, from entering entangled in his own patch of foliage. Forbes Masson gives Jaques a lyrical melancholy, taking over many of the songs, and quite enjoying an MC-like detachment from, yet influence on others.
At times Boyd tries too hard for comedy, hitting false notes. The modern wedding-dressed Audrey teetering in mini-skirt fits on the sliding-scale of love (as does Christine Enwisle’s alternately shrewish and adoring Phoebe – unluckiest character of all), but the sudden handheld mike for Corin – whom RSC reliable Geoffrey Freshwater has made a calm measure of others’ desires throughout – is just theatrical opportunism.
Oliver de Boys: Charles Aitken.
Jaques de Boys/Dennis: Peter Peverley.
Orlando: Jonjo O’Neill.
Adam: Roger Watkins.
Duke 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.
Lors Amiens: Dharmesh Patel.
1st Lord: James Howard.
Jaques: Forbes Masson.
Corin: Geoffrey Freshwater.
Silvius: James Tucker.
Audrey: Sophie Russell.
Sir Oliver Martext: James Traherne.
Phoebe: Christine Entwisle.
William: Dyfan Dwyfor.
Director: Michael Boyd.
Designer: Tom Piper.
Lighting: Wolfgang Gobbel.
Sound: Andrew Franks.
Music/Music Director: John Woolf.
Movement/Choreography: Struan Leslie.
Company Text/Voice work: Alison Bomber.
Fights: Terry King.
Assistant director: Michael Fentiman.
Additional movement: Lucy Cullingford.