As You Like It is one of my favourite Shakespeare comedies, it’s full of romance, funny characters and it has a rather silly plot. Last night’s NT Live showing from the Olivier Theatre did not disappoint.
The set in this production was very impressive and extremely clever. The opening scenes of the play set in the court were in an office. I wasn’t overly sure about this at first, especially during the wrestling match, as it didn’t seem to fit. However, when the setting was transformed to the forest of Arden, the tables and chairs were lifted up by strings to form the trees and shadows. It was excellently designed by Lizzie Clachan but I kept thinking that it must be a nightmare to reset all the furniture again for the opening scenes! There was also a small choir, who were sat one some of the chairs and sang some forest animal sounds, spookily during the first half. In the second half, they created more positive and musical sounds, particularly to show the love at first sight between Celia (Patsy Ferran) and Oliver (Philip Arditti). Although this was effective, at times I felt it was a little distracting from the dialogue, particularly when they were making bee like humming noises. This may only have been relevant when seeing it at the cinema as I’m guessing they were miked, it might not be as loud or obvious when watching in the theatre.
Rosalie Craig was an excellent, strong Rosalind, and the chemistry between her and Ferran was brilliant. Having listened to a podcast interview with them both earlier in the week, where they discussed that the play is as much about love between friends as it is romantic love, this was evident in their performances. I also really liked Joe Bannister as Orlando, making him a nervous but extremely likeable character. One of my favourite moments in the play will sound strange, but it was during a scene between Touchstone (Mark Benton, very good) and the shepherd, when the rest of the cast were pretending to be sheep. It was much better and funnier than it sounds!
My slight criticism of the play is going to be about the music, but I am being quite harsh. I last saw As You Like It a few years ago in Stratford-Upon-Avon with the RSC where the music was composed by Laura Marling. I left the theatre humming the songs and subsequently bought the soundtrack. The songs in this production weren’t particularly memorable, and although the dance scene during the wedding at the end was fun and entertaining, 24 hours later I have no memory of the song at all. However, overall this was an enjoyable production and I definitely would like to see more of Rosalie Craig and Patsy Ferran on stage.