As You Like It's Forest of Arden is irresistible. One of Shakespeare's most fertile settings, Arden is an alternative court, where hierarchies dissolve, nature rules unrestrained and love blooms freely. This golden world offers any director ample opportunity for playfulness: especially at The Globe, with its pillars, doorways, balconies and wings.
It seems a shame, then, that Blanche McIntyre’s production plays it straight-as-a-rod, sticking dutifully to the text. The magic kingdom of Arden is relegated to a state of mind and the only transformations are within Shakespeare’s wordplay. McIntyre is an astute reader of Shakespeare, and every line is plumbed for meaning impressively. But, robbed of all magic, the play lacks clout and ends up feeling perfunctory.
Music could have rescued this production: there are more songs in As You Like It than anywhere else in Shakespeare. The much-feted score by folk musician and erstwhile heartthrob Johnny Flynn was pretty, but oddly absent, and the production could have done with more of his folksy charm. One need only look to productions like RSC’s 2013 offering,where Laura Marling filled Arden with her songs and turned it into Glastonbury, to see how well it can be done,
Luckily, the acting was brilliant throughout. James Garnon was exceptional as Jaques: the well-trodden All The World’s A Stage speech felt crisp and newly minted. Michelle Terry and Ellie Piercy asRosalind and Celia were the life and soul of the production: giggling and clutching each other like schoolgirls at a bus-stop. When they are off-stage,you want them back.
And yet, moments of brilliance could not prevent this traditional production from drooping at the edges and feeling rather long.
|What||As You Like It, The Globe|
|Where||The Globe, 21 New Globe Walk, Bankside, London, SE1 9DT | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Blackfriars (underground)|
15 May 15 – 05 Sep 15, Performance times to be confirmed.
|Website||Click here to book via the Globe's website.|