As You Like It at Shakespeare’s Globe
“How are designers, directors and actors to cope with a play at once so fanciful, earnest and inconsistent?”, asks Michael Dobson, director of the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-Upon-Avon, about As You Like It. Director Blanche McIntyre’s answer in her fast-paced, rumpus of a production is through vibrant, individual performances from confident actors, who steal the limelight from one another continuously as they capture all the bawdy comedy and bizarreness the play has to offer.
One of Shakespeare’s most enjoyable comedies of banishment, gender-swapping and lovers troubles, As You Like It opens with the news that the existing Duke Senior has been usurped by his brother Frederick and banished from his kingdom. Simultaneously, the death of Sir Roland de Boys has left his three sons warring with each other as his eldest treats the youngest – the highly beguiling Orlando – with patronising contempt. All this is witnessed by the Duke’s spirited daughter, Celia, and her cousin Rosalind.
Incredibly spirited and movingly sincere performances from Michelle Terry, Ellie Piercy and James Garnon keep the audience rooting for the characters, and preserve moments of memorable alchemy as some of the best speeches in Shakespeare are delivered. However the raucous over-reliance on comic sparring leaves the individual performances isolated, and the overall message and impression of the production is largely lost as a result. A beautifully devised musical score by Johnny Flynn does provide moments of much-needed reflection, and would be worthy of an evening’s performance in their own right.
The Globe has succeeded under Dominic Dromgoole, its outgoing artistic director, in producing a multi-sensory, audience-inclusive and highly creative environment that makes any visit a magical experience. Whilst this show will not do much to reinvent the wheel of either Globe productions or As You Like It as a play, it is a hearty production which may settle to a more reflective, integrated whole as it plays in.
Photo: Simon Kane
As You Like It is on at the Globe until 5th September 2015, for further information or to book tickets visit here.