Tuesday 13th August 2019 at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.
Having seen various adaptations of the most popular of the bard’s catalogue in a cycle over the years, I decided to broaden my Shakespeare horizons with a trip to see As You Like It. Now, having enjoyed a diet of Shakespeare’s greatest delights up until this point, the only conclusion I could reach after this is that As You Like it, as it turns out, is not that great of a play.
It’s not terrible by any means, I mean it’s Shakespeare so it does come complete with a good number of quotable greats, but the plot itself lacks the excitement and the drama of other plays and to be completely honest, every trick in the book included here is done far better elsewhere. Cross-dressing, mistaken identity, usurped dukes, feuding relatives, thwarted lovers and mass marriages all fare far better elsewhere.
A great cast give strong performances, with central roles played brilliantly by Bettrys Jones and Jack Laskey as Orlando and Rosalind – both of whom boast excellent comic talents and great comic timing. Others to impress include Sophie Stone as the comically intrusive Jaques, Stacy Abalogun as the comically dismissive Phoebe and James Garnon as the likeable fool Touchstone. So there’s lots of comic talent on stage, but the play itself isn’t a comic corker by any stretch.
This production benefits considerably from its grand historic surroundings of the Globe Theatre but even then the production seems to rest comfortably on the magic of the theatre itself rather than pulling out all the stops to give the story taking place some theatrical magic. It feels like Federay Holmes and Elle While direct in two particular tones: pleasantly traditional but also disappointingly mild and safe. It’s a solid, well delivered Shakespearean play no doubt, but it fails to push the boat out in any direction.
One thing Globe productions always seem to do well is the musical interlude and that’s a tradition beautifully preserved here through Tanika Yearwood’s vocal talents alongside the work of composer James Maloney and most particularly in Siân Williams’ finale choreography which sends the audience on their way with a lightness of step.
As You Like It is a solid production. It’s all done very nicely in the tradition of a Shakespearean story played straight with some musical interludes, bawdy gestures to bring lines to life for modern audiences and a tameness of style – it doesn’t knock socks off but it does provide a good dose of mild entertainment for a few hours.
As You Like It plays at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre until September 20th 2019 and you can find tickets here.