As You Like It at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
Olivia Vinall and Edward Hogg star as the besotted couple Rosalind and Orlando in this madcap retelling of Shakespeare’s wild, invigorating and comic ode to love, As You Like It. This play depicts the maddening effect that the summer months can have on oneself, with the brain stifled into silliness and the heart throbbing with a zeal for love.
The season can engender untamed desire, as showcased in this production, which transports the audience into a crazed world of comedy and compassion, wherein the central duo fall hopelessly for one another – while many other interpretations of love are explored, often to hilarious effect. Director Max Webster inserts a modern element into The Bard’s classic comedy: we see plastic rubbish lain strewn on the stage and a song is dedicated to the rampant pollution in Duke Frederick’s court, while scenes of fast food outlets and showbiz wrestling situate this production within a very contemporary setting.
In liberating, verdant resistance to the villainous Frederick’s court lies the Forest of Arden, which, although battered with wild weather (we see the dense forest hit by snow and rain, possibly stemming from climate change), provides welcome refuge to our beguiled protagonists, and in doing so represents a bastion of nature and love against the spiteful antagonist and his trashed dukedom.
In spite of Webster’s modernising intent, the drama retains the appropriate levity and sentimentality that makes it one of the iconic playwright’s more famed comedies. A working knowledge of the original may not be necessary, but some of the thicker soliloquies and monologues begin to meander and confuse rather than provide clarity.
The sound system has to compete with the audible environs of the theatre: cars and their alarms, people and their chatter, aeroplanes and their engines, and dogs and their barks all piercing the air. The actors also have to contend with the flap of handheld fans on a suffocatingly warm afternoon. As if to confirm the claustrophobic heat, a woman in the audience faints after only 20 minutes of the performance. An impromptu interval takes place before the show can be resumed.
Music by Charlie Fink – erstwhile frontman of Noah and the Whale – provides a joyous soundtrack to this eccentric production of As You Like It. A production that is, overall, a fitting update of Shakespeare’s amorphous exploration of love’s unique madness.
Photo: Jane Hobson
As You Like It is at Regent’s Park Open AirTheatre from 6th July until 28th July 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.