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A CurtainUp London Review
As You Like It
by Cassie Robinson
Sharrock's direction is so clear and self-assured that at times the imprint of her involvement is not noticeable. This, of course, is a skill in itself: concealing the thought and the toil which must have been ploughed into the production. Where her input is obvious, we see refreshing, intelligent and nicely-aimed touches. For example, scores of Orlando's love letters flutter in excess down from the theatre's highest tier whilst the lover fills the forest with the poetry of his passion. Again, just as Orlando (Jack Laskey) and the ailing, elderly Adam (Trevor Martin) are offered mercy and food by the deposed Duke (Philip Bird), Oliver (Jamie Parker), covered in bloody evidence of torture, is roughly shoved onstage by the new Duke (Brendan Hughes). The fights are energetic and wild, whether it's the wrestling match, where the groundlings are pushed back and cordoned off from the over spilling, lawlessly fierce tussle, or the sibling scrapping of Orlando and Oliver, as violent, petty and playground as any fraternal brawl.
The design by Dick Bird matches the production's overall uncluttered but considered classicism. Whilst the characters wear unalleviated period dress, the Globe's marble-effect columns are covered in the black for the sombre, suspicion-ridden court and peeled off to reveal wooden tree trunks in the Forest.
In spite of the difficulties of the Globe's space, the cast are a joy to watch as they work together with well-gelled chemistry and convincing integrity. Naomi Frederick's Rosalind is delightfully spirited and mischievously witty. Her quick tongue means she borders on the shrewish and persuasively transforms into a bold, roguish Ganymede. Laura Rogers' Celia is cheeky, affectionate and pragmatic and a well-poised counter balance to Rosalind. When onstage together, the strong bond between them makes it clear that the girls' friendship overrides the men's political darkness and division.
Jack Laskey is a memorable Orlando who expertly progresses from downtrodden brother to desperate lover, all-consumingly smitten but painfully incapable of expressing his adoration. He manages to combine the skill of a romantic comedy lead with clear Shakespearean delivery. Whilst Tim McMullan's Jacques luxuriously drawls his line and sumptuously lolls around the auditorium like an Oscar Wilde figure, Dominic Rowan's Touchstone in ludicrous jester dress provides punchy stand-up-style comedy.
In many ways a classic production, this As You Like It is a delight of an idyllic comedy. Both pleasant and pleasing, sweet and funny, Thea Sharrock has produced a beguiling and heart warming version of Shakespeare's tale of friendship and love conquering betrayal and mistrust.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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