Stratford Upon Avon
As You Like It: William Shakespeare
Runs 2h 55m, one interval, till 31 August 2019
www.rsc.org.uk 22 February
Review: Rod Dungate, 2 March 2019
This is not a strong production, though somewhat saved by its second half and some strong playing from many of the Arden folk.
There are several reasons behind its flaws. Kimberley Sykes, who directs, has focused more on diversity of characters and casting than she has on the meaning of the play, so that the whole feels ramshackle and lacks forward motion. The central characters (Rosalind, Orlando, Celia) are nicely enough characterised by the young actors but they lack the physical and vocal skills to bring depth and flexibility to their creations; the text is spoken (or frequently shouted) but feels empty. Stephen Brimson Lewis fails in his setting to distinguish between Court and Arden this may be a novel idea but it destroys the structure and meaning of the play – and worse, it is boring.
Lucy Phelps and David Ajao (Rosalind and Orlando) fail to really bring us into their world, and there is a surprising lack of electricity between them. Sophie Stanton Creates a rounded Jaques but is too withdrawn so, once more, we struggle to engage.
It feels as if Sandy Grierson (Touchstone) is driving this production along; however this does not allow him the lightness of touch he needs to release the comedy.
In the second half we are much relieved at the appearance of the man folk inhabiting the Forest of Arden. Laura Elsworthy and Charlotte Arrowsmith (Phoebe and Audrey) are a delight to watch. Tom Dawze in the easy-to-miss role of William totally endearing.
Sykes is orchestrating the production has either ignored or missed the subtleties of the text and the changes of rhythm; nowhere could this be more obvious than the beautiful section in which Rosalind leads us into the masquelike final sequence. A sadly missed opportunity.
Rosalind: Lucy Phelps
Duke Senior / Duke Frederick: Antony Byrne
Celia: Sophie Kahn Levy
Touchstone: Sandy Grierson
Amiens / Le Beau: Emily Johnstone
Charles: Graeme Brookes
Oliver: Leo Wan
Jacques de Bois: Aaron Thiara
Orlando: David Ajao
Adam: Richard Clews
Dennis: Aaron Thiara
Jaques: Sophi Stanton
Corin: Patrick Brennan
Phoee: Laura Elsworthy
Sylvia: Amelia Donkor
Audrey: Charlotte Arrowsmith
William: Tom Dawze
Martext: Karina Jones
Lords: Graeme Brookes, Alex Jones
Director: Kimberley Sykes
Set Designer: Stephen Brimson Lewis
Costume and Lighting Design: Bretta Gerecke
Composer: Tim Sutton
Sound Design: Jonathan Ruddick
Movement: Ayse Tashkiran
Fights: Rachel Brown-Williams, Ruth Cooper-Brown
Puppetry: Mervyn Miller
Voice and Text Work: Cathleen McCarron
Assistant Director: Emma Baggott
Music Director: Garth Ellis
Associate Music Director: Lindsey Miller
Casting Director: Hannah Miller
Production Photo Topher McGrillis (c) RSC