Combining puppetry, pantomime, sign language and audience participation, the RSC’s frolicking production owns the stage – ★★★★
Kimberley Sykes’ As You Like It sometimes gets lost in its own excitement. Though as a comedy with many characters and subplots, it feels surprisingly inclusive and accessible as a modern Shakespearean party. It’s when the music gets too loud and actors resort to shouting for laughs that the comedy and charm starts to falter.
While Antony Byrne’s transition from one Duke to another is rushed and overwhelming in a sudden scene change, Rosalind and Celia’s bickering over Orlando soon becomes tiresome as opposed to comedic. Yet, mastering the lights and music, Lucy Phelps’ Rosalind commandeers the stage with confidence in the search for her lover.
It is in amongst the cheer and the fleeting journeys of the characters that Sophie Stanton’s (Eastenders) observant Jaques emerges, though monologuing more with an apparent disdain than moving melancholy. The standout performance comes from Sandy Grierson (Doctor Faustus) as Touchstone, who with glitter and faux fur costumes is an amusing amalgamation of Noel Fielding and Russell Brand. Coupled with the equally expressive Charlotte Arrowsmith as Audrey, who communicates in British Sign Language, their chemistry is particularly entertaining.
With glitter balls and sparkle, this adaptation’s focus is more towards relaxed and hearty comedy rather than the complicated but intricate romances of its main characters. However as a slightly meta exploration of theatre’s many forms, there is much to like in this expansive and whimsical production.
As You Like It is now playing at the Barbican until 18 January 2020.
Production Images: Topher McGrillis/RSC.
Disclaimer: I was invited to watch As You Like It for free in exchange for a review of the performance as a member of the press. I did not receive payment for this review and all opinions stated are honest and my own.