As You Like It at Southwark Playhouse
Known as one of Shakespeare’s lighter comedies, As You Like It has been brought to life with evidently much of the fun spirit it would have originally been performed in. Derek Bond has shaken up the elements of an old play and made it very watchable for a modern audience. Far from severe or rigidly devoted to the original play, Bond has been pragmatic and loose while staying true to the rich language. Even for audience members new to Shakespeare the intonation and energy of the performers animates the dense structure of the script, making it not only understandable but very funny.
There is great chemistry between all cast members and the versatility of those playing multiple parts – namely Richard Albrecht, Steven Crossley and Dominic Gerrard – is commendable. The both fluttery and fierce bond of female friendship was sincerely portrayed in the parts of Celia (Kaisa Hammarland) and Rosalind (Sally Scott). Scott tackles one of Shakespeare’s strongest and most prominent female roles with exuberance and successfully brings a fresh egalitarian undercurrent to the piece. Simon Lipkin as Touchstone is undoubtedly an economic performer, squeezing every last laugh out of the abounding text. It is very easy humour and his clever modernisation and expert skills in puppetry bring bursts of light in all the right places. Samuel Townsend (Silvius) and Harry Livingstone (Orlando de Boys) both admirably render very different sides of men in love, and Townsend’s Le Beau is a sufficiently slimy busybody.
The voices of Joanna Hickman, Minal Patel and Townsend blend beautifully in the folky harmonies of Jude Obermüller’s contemporary score. In a pub-like set up at the back of the stage, a minimal but effective musical source played by members of the cast, the music is artfully interwoven to enhance the emotive points in the plot. The design is equally minimal yet somehow in colouring the air with confetti designer Emma Bailey changes scene and weather. Costumes are a mixture of 1940s smart casual and land-girl country wear, which again adds another layer of modern but-not-quite-now style to the show as a whole.
Thoroughly enjoyable and the least bewildering Shakespearian experience to date, this production of As You Like It is a wonderful introduction and re-invigoration of an old classic.
Photos: Robert Workman
As You Like It is at Southwark Playhouse until 18th October 2014, for further information or to book visit here.