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A CurtainUp London London Review
As You Like It

The production reviewed below launches a 5-play cycle at the gigantic New York Armory, especially reconfigured for the the Royal Shakespeare Company's whirlwind visit to New York, as part of Lincoln Center's Summer Festival, The show is such a hot ticket that a $100 buys you an obstruted view seat and New Yorkers bent on not missing what's become a must-see event so that tickets are as hard to come by as the perennial snail's teeth with people paying close to $300 for premium tickets, Much as I admire the Brits' way with Shakespeare's poetry, if you're going to spend that kind of money, why not combine it with a vacation excursion to the beautiful Berkshires where Shakespeare & Company is celebrating its 37th season with a lovely 1920s set As You Like It in its Founders Theater. The venue boasts an authentic Elizabethan flavor, a deep thrust stage, and good sight lines wherever you sit. Ticket prices range from $15 to $65. Look for a full review on our Shakespeare & Company pagea towards the end of this coming week.
-- esommer, 7/09/11.

Oh how full of briars is this workaday world! — Rosalind
As You Like It
Katy Stephens as Ganymede (Photo: Ellie Kurttz)
As You Like It seems to have been less performed of recent years than some of Shakespeare's other comedies such as Twelfth Night and Much Ado. Rosalind is a magnificent part for a woman, as good as Viola, with the same demands of making a girl appear as a credible boy. Katy Stephens' performances were admired in 2008 at the RSC histories where she played both Joan of Arc and Margaret of Anjou and now she brings her talents to Rosalind in the Forest of Arden. Paired with Jonjo O'Neill as a sincere Orlando, Katy Stephens is eloquent and convincing as Ganymede the youth she pretends to be.

The first scenes in the court of the usurper Duke Frederick (Sandy Neilson) are a study in black and white Elizabethan costume and a courtly stamping dance adds to the period detailing. The music is contemporaneous, there is unaccompanied sacred music, a "Deus", and during the wrestling sequences drumming to add excitement. The fights are bloody and authentic, a wrestler banging the head of his opponent against a wall and leaving bloody handprints on the scenery. Oliver (Charles Aitken) the bad brother plays his scenes as melodrama with a histrionic style of acting. This helps us forgive him later in the play when he will court Celia (Mariah Gale). The bedroom scene between Celia and Rosalind shows an excellent rapport between the two cousins. They are alone and relaxed until Duke Frederick invades to banish Rosalind while Celia, obviously distressed at her father's lack of regard for her feelings, has tears in her eyes.

By contrast the forest has trap doors revealing the banished court, dressed as Cossacks in fur lined clothes while snow falls. Touchstone (Richard Katz) makes his comic forest entrance ensnared in a leafless bush; his wild hair already fitting the "pulled through a hedge backwards" saying before this battle with the briars. Jacques (Forbes Masson with smoky eye make up) is played as a highly camp comedian, his melancholia exaggerated for comic effect as he struts and poses. How I wished the audience did not join in the seven ages of man speech!

After the interval, the auditoria and the foyer areas have been decorated with poems written on cardboard cartons and many are hanging within the seating area. These in excess are Orlando's love poems to Rosalind, borrowing from John Donne. There is good chemistry between O'Neill and Stephens as Orlando and Rosalind and Katy Stephens is a spirited Rosalind. The programme tells us about the restraints of Elizabethan corsets, symbolic also of the exaggerated manners to be observed at court and so explaining the sense of freedom they find in the forest. We can feel how more relaxed the actors are in the country roles. The yokels are well played with Christine Entwisle's Phoebe all doe eyed over Ganymede as she mistakes him for a boy but Jacques has stolen much of the comic thunder. Celia's dream of the hunt has all the sexual innuendo that horns can muster and a ravishing by Oliver. The many songs are well delivered and Forbes Masson's singing voice is charming.

While Michael Boyd's As You Like It may not be one in a lifetime, it has much to commend it and moments that will stay in the memory. It is not accidental that it has been chosen to open and close the Lincoln Center Festival in July and August.

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As You Like It
Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Michael Boyd

Starring: Katy Stephens, Jonjo O'Neill, Maria Gale
With: Charles Aitken, David Carr, Dyfan Dwyfor, Christine Entwisle, Goeffrey Freshwater, James Howard, Ansu Kabia, Richard Katz, Debbie Korley, Forbes Masson, Sandy Neilson, Dharmesh Patel, Peter Peverley, Sophie Russell, Clarence Smith, James Traherne, James Tucker, Roger Watkins
Designed by Tom Piper
Lighting: Wolfgang Gõbbel
Choreography and Movement by Struan Leslie
Fights by Terry King
Running time: Three hours with one interval
Box Office: 0844 800 1110
Booking at The Roundhouse to 5th February 2011 and then at the Lincoln Center Festival Park Avenue Armory 6th July to 14th August 2011
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 17th January 2011 performance at The Roundhouse Chalk Farm Road London NW1 5TH (Tube: Chalk Farm)

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