As You Like It (The Globe, 13th June 2009)

As I am reviewing lots of different productions of the same play, I thought I would make some comments on watching different versions of the same plays close together. Recently, two The Winter’s Tale and hopefully it’ll be the Jude Law Hamlet in a few weeks following hotly on from that Tennant Hamlet. Last year it was a Globe and RSC version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and this year it is the RSC version and The Globe productions of As You Like It. These productions follow the Tim Supple production at the Leicester Curve which Miching Malicho blogged about in March.

It is actually very exciting to see two productions of the same play very close together. For example, the Old Vic (Bridge Project) and RSC’s The Winter’s Tales are so very different presenting such different readings of the text. Actually seeing them together is makes you really think about the play and the different perspectives being presented rather than being persuaded to accept one creative team’s take on the play as the only reading.

As I watched As You Like It, I still had in mind the RSC version which I saw a few week’s ago. When the cast came on stage in formal dress, there was a clear link here, but from then on the productions were so different. The RSC’s version moves through time and ends up as a modern version; the Globe’s version stays very much in the Elizabethan/Jacobean contemporary setting. The Globe production doesn’t dwell on the darkness of the play, except for a moment when Oliver has clearly been tortured by Duke Frederick. It’s really good fun. Touchstone (Dominic Rowan) is clearly the fool in the court, but in the woods he is able to find his self away from the two women he flees the court with. The dance at the end brings four couples together and there is a sense of satisfaction that all is well though we know that Jacques has gone to live with Duke Frederick in the ‘abandoned cave’. When things might get desperate and Orlando threatens Duke Senior’s court to try and get food for Adam, his actions are undermined by Jacques who thrusts an apple onto the sword. We never think that Orlando was in danger when Oliver brings in the blood stained scarf and the only danger we are confronted with is a goat appearing out of the trap, who becomes the focus of some ‘he’s behind you’ moments.

The Globe stage had been extended for this production and, for me, there were some issues with viewpoints. We had supposedly good seats but when characters delivered speeches from the back of the Groundlings they were sometimes difficult to hear and we couldn’t be seen. I like this use of spaces, but as in any space, I feel that it is important to make sure that as many people in the audience can see and hear.

We see a real transformation in characters and the journey they take in the Forest of Arden. Of course Rosalind (Naomi Frederick) becomes a boy, but other transformations are also highlighted in this production. For example, Celia (Laura Rogers) starts the play off dressed regally like Queen Elizabeth and becomes a bit like Miranda Richardson’s ‘whose Queen’ in the second series of Blackadder. She is clearly favoured by her father, and so when she runs away we feel that she has probably made the bravest decision of all the characters. Jack Lasky’s Orlando starts as an angry frustrated and bitter man, not knowing what to do in his brother’s house after their father’s death and becomes a passionate lover in the woods and his dance at the end was as if he was still in character and enjoying and feeling every move.

Rosalind presents the epilogue at the end of the play and lifts her dress to reveal her breeches to remind us that on the Globe stage it was the men who played the women and Rosalind would have been played by a boy actor. Earlier in the play, Orlando is pleasantly surprised at how much he is delighted by Gannymeade’s kiss and you felt that he would have been content if Rosalind continued to be Gannymeade.

The dance at the end of the Globe production is ‘feel good’ in spirit and the production is a ‘feel good’ production. In three months, I have seen the darkness of the play represented in Supple’s version, a sense of surrealism represented in Michael Boyd’s RSC production and the sense of a play that is an escape into the woods and from the restraints of the court (everyday life) at The Globe.

Previews and Reviews

The Stage / News / Shakespeare’s Globe announce…
Young cast lead Young Hearts season at Globe …
The Stage / News / Shakespeare’s Globe announce…
As You Like It, Globe (Independent Review)
Evening Standard Review of the Globe As You Like It
WOS review of As You Like It (Globe)
As You Like It, Globe
The Guardian review of As You Like It
The Globe As You Like It in the Financial Times
Young cast lead Young Hearts season at Globe …
As You Like It, Globe (Telegraph Review)

As You Like It Shakespeare's Globe

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