AS YOU LIKE IT
by William Shakespeare.
OlivierTheatre Upper Ground South Bank SE1 9PX In rep to 5 March 2015.
2pm 11 Nov, 5, 15, 31 Dec, 2, 9, 20, 27 Jan, 4, 6, 13, 16 Feb 1, 5 Mar.
2.30pm 6 Dec, 3, 10 Jan, 7, 14 Feb.
7.30pm 9, 10 Nov, 4, 5, 7, 14, 15, 30 Dec, 1, 2, 7-9, 11, 12, 18-21, 25-27 Feb, 1-5 Mar.
Audio-described 8 Jan, 9 Jan 2pm (+Touch Tour 12.30pm).
Captioned 19 Jan.
Runs 2hr 45min One interval.
TICKETS 020 7452 3000.
Review: Carole Woddis 7 November.
Fine for those who find a fine romance dark and grungy.
One normally imagines As You Like It as a rustic rom-com. Polly Findlay hasn’t exactly ignored its usual romantic setting so much as, taking her cue from the characters in the play – and one or two other hints such as comedy routines, a bit of music hall here, a bit of high tech there – given it a transformative make-over.
Findlay’s conceit initially is a hard one to take – a highly modernised, regimented latter-day urban office, buzzers and bells going off every minute. Improbably, in the midst of this working scenario comes Orlando’s wrestling bout with Charles, a razzamataz show straight out of ITV Sunday afternoon professional wrestling, complete with parading contestants in day-glo cloaks.
It’s when Rosalind and her loyal cousin, Celia, are banished to the forest of Arden that Findlay’s ploy really begins to take off. And literally. Off go the desks with a great clunking of steel as if demolition is at hand, to become trees housing a human chorus on swings, who intermittently provide bird and other sounds – a long sit.
This Forest of Arden is a dark and grungy space, yet weaves its own special spell. There are several inspired moments – a flock of humanoid sheep grazing, a comic turn in itself. Paul Chahidi’s Seven Ages of Man as a melancholy summary of our mortal passage. And composer Orlando Gough’s vocal hand in this production is everywhere.
Best of all, Findlay has wrought a conversational, naturalistic and very clear diction from a cast who catch her sense of the contemporary as if the words had just been new minted, notably in Mark Benton’s outrageous, down-at-heel Touchstone and Patsy Ferran’s sharp-eyed Celia.
The one under-played note, strangely, is that between Rosalie Craig’s Rosalind and Joe Bannister. Craig makes a delightful Ganymede, Bannister a slightly gauche, chap-next-door Orlando. But it’s hard to sense much romantic charge between them.
Still there is enough in Findlay’s very theatrical production and Shakespeare’s exploration of the giddiness and transforming power of love to once again send magic spilling over into the stalls in a wave of bonhomie and hope.
Orlando: Joe Bannister.
Adam: Patrick Godfrey.
Oliver: Philip Arditti.
Dennis/Forest Lord.: Jonathan Dryden Taylor.
Charles: Leon Annor.
Celia: Patsy Ferran.
Rosalind: Rosalie Craig.
Touchstone: Mark Benton.
Le Beau: Jay Saighal.
Duke Frederick: Leo Wringer.
Duke Senior: John Ramm.
Amiens: Fra Fee.
Corin: Allan Williams.
Silvius: Ken Nwosu.
Jacques: Paul Chahidi.
Audrey: Siobhán McSweeney.
Phebe: Gemma Lawrence.
William/Forest Lord: Ekow Quartey.
Jaques de Bois: Nathan Ives-Moiba.
Court Lord: Jonathan Coote.
Ensemble/Singers: Hazel Gardner, Ellie Kirk.
Choir: Rebecca Askew, Jeremy Avis, Lea Cornthwaite, Jonathan Glew, Hazel Holder, Sterre Maier, Catherine May, Elaine Mitchener, Simon Prag, Osnat Schmool, Belinda Sykes, Rebecca Thorn.
Director: Polly Findlay.
Designer: Lizzie Clachan.
Lighting: Jon Clark.
Sound: Carolyn Downing.
Music: Orlando Gough.
Music Director: Marc Tritschler.
Movement: Jonathan Goddard.
Company Voice work: Jeannette Nelson.
Costume: Christina Cunningham.
Fight director: Kate Waters.
Associate lighting: Peter Harrison.
First performance of this production of As You Like It in the Olivier Theatre, London, 2 November 2015.