As You Like It - National Theatre 2015
This is, sadly, definitely not as I like it. Shakespeare's most enchanting comedy of romantic intrigue that erupts when city folk are displaced to the country has some sprightly and affecting performances, to be sure, but they are marooned in a production of cascading ill-judged modern effects.
In a programme note, Shakespeare expert and historian James Shapiro writes, "What critics have come to call his 'green world' comedies trace a path from city to countryside before in the end returning to the city," and says that "it is in As You Like It that the potential of 'green world' comedy is most fully realised."
It's mystifying then, that there's no greenery on actual display here, apart from some green post-it notes that a lovestruck Orlando posts for Rosalind, leaf-like, on the surrounding trees. Those trees, in fact, are represented by upended, dangling office desks and chairs from the opening scene set in what looks like a modern trading floor.
Here's a director Polly Findlay and designer Lizzie Clachan establishing an alternative universe for their show, the one rooted in a contemporary reality of endless computer screens and the other in a surreal version of a forest. But it chafes away against the grain of comic delight that the play usually engenders, leaving the audience looking at the ugliest forest ever for most of the time.
Fortunately, some compensating pleasures survive, as the delightful Rosalie Craig lends her striking beauty to Rosalind (and an impressive boyishness to her transformation as Ganymede); no wonder Joe Bannister's Orlando is besotted equally by both. There's also lovely support from Patsy Ferran as her cousin Celia, an impressively dour and severe Jacques from Paul Chahidi (who lends beautiful gravity to the Seven Ages of Man speech), and a delightfully musical Amiens from Fra Fee, who sings Orlando Gough's score bewitchingly.
"Some productions put a spring in your step; this one, alas, doesn’t. And, yegads, it runs until March!"
Dominic Cavendish for The Telegraph
"In old-fashioned productions of As You Like It, it was often said that you couldn’t see the wood for the trees. In this instance, the cast is almost upstaged by the chairs."
Michael Billington for The Guardian
"Inventively staged and well acted for the most part, it is held together by scintillating performances from Craig and Ferran whose relationship is funny and authentic."
Neil Norman for The Daily Express