As You Like It – August 2013

Experience: 7/10

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Maria Aberg

Venue: RST

Date: Monday 12th August 2013

Our view was completely different again from our previous two visits, as we were up in the circle. Despite having a good view, I did feel a bit distanced from the production as I couldn’t see the actors’ expressions clearly – we’ve become terribly spoilt in recent years. There was more detail in some parts of the performance, but on the whole it was much the same as before, and without the surprise value I didn’t find it as uplifting as last time, hence the reduced rating.

Adam was clearly getting a little fed up with Orlando’s whinging after so many performances, as he joined in the “a thousand crowns” tonight like he’d already heard the story a thousand times. Oliver hit Orlando after the line “What, boy!”, and when he was talking with Charles later, I noticed he wrote something in a notebook after thanking the wrestler and saying he would requite him – a reminder to reward Charles in future perhaps? Charles hit Oliver on the shoulder in a friendly way before he left, but it was still a bit too hard for Oliver’s liking.

Rosalind and Celia came on together and stood in the front corners before joining the rest of the court at the back of the stage; this is a change from their previous entrance as I recall. I could see the movements well from our angle, and at one point the others seemed to be following Rosalind’s movements, just before she broke away from the group. The continuing movements behind Rosalind and Celia were more distracting from this position. When La Belle arrived, I was struck by the apparent contradiction of a female courtier being so keen on a sport which, as both Touchstone and Celia pointed out, is not fit for young ladies. I suspect that this would be cited as another example of the way Duke Frederick has created corrupt and depraved appetites among his followers, but it still seemed an unlikely situation to me tonight.

Duke Frederick was standing behind the wrestling pit during the early part of the fight, munching away on some food – he never stopped eating in this scene. The fight itself seemed to be in slow motion compared to previous performances, but perhaps we’re just used to it now. We certainly had a better view of the action from this angle. At the end, Touchstone took Orlando by the hand and stood beside him in the pit, holding Orlando’s arm up to indicate his victory. He got out of the pit pretty quickly when Orlando announced his name though, so he clearly knew how much trouble the young man was in and didn’t care to join him. The Duke seemed to spend a longer time at the back of the stage watching as Rosalind give her necklace to Orlando, and when he banished Rosalind a short while later, Celia fairly screamed at him “Pronounce that sentence then on me.”

We had to endure a lot of coughing tonight during Duke Senior’s opening speech, but it died away after a while. We had heard today about Oliver Ryan’s choice to use a feather as part of his portrayal of Jacques. Tonight I noticed that the First Lord took a feather out of his hat and showed it to the group before he gave his impression of Jacques; they all laughed and clapped, and now that we understood where that came from we could enjoy it as well. Jacques’ own jerky dance movements were more restrained tonight.

When Rosalind, Celia and Touchstone arrived in Arden, Celia had a red flashing light strapped to her forehead, which neither of us remembered from previous performances. She was also holding a small spade as if to protect herself from something in the forest. Touchstone’s white makeup seemed to be lasting better tonight; perhaps the heat of recent weeks made it come off more easily? Later, when Orlando had brought Adam to the Duke’s picnic, I noticed he tended the old man carefully and kissed him on the forehead before getting a drink for himself.

As the interval drew to a close, Touchstone and Corin indulged in some jostling for the best position against the pillar: Corin won. After scratching himself rather a lot, Touchstone fell into trying to imitate Corin, putting his stick in the same position and squinting at whatever Corin had pointed to. Touchstone even mouthed “I can’t see anything” to the audience. He also swished his stick and hit his own foot, again.

After Celia had told Rosalind that Orlando was in the forest, we heard his accordion before he and Jacques appeared. Rosalind screamed very loudly when Orlando mentioned her name. Orlando and Jacques looked about, puzzled, and Celia covered Rosalind’s mouth so that the scream changed to a strange animal noise. Celia also had to hold Rosalind back at least once, and when Rosalind did approach Orlando, she took some time to prepare herself before she spoke. Orlando managed to light the cigarette tonight.

When Audrey dashed off, all excited, to gather the necessary trimmings for her wedding to Touchstone, the band played the bridal march. This was the audience participation section, and tonight Touchstone had some difficulty finding a married man in the audience, or at least, any man who would admit to being married. Finally George came to his assistance. Unfortunately, despite George actually being with his wife, neither of them could remember how long they’d been married, so Touchstone had to give up on the questions, but we’d all had some good laughs anyway so that was fine. Someone in the right stalls had a copy of the text open on their lap, and Touchstone used that as well once he was back on text, asking what the next line was. Sir Oliver was singing Here Come De Bride when he came on.

No orgasm for Phoebe tonight – I suspect the assistant director winnowed that bit of chaff from the wheat – and Orlando took notes when Ganymede was telling him about Hero and Troilus. Silvius was really upset when he heard the letter from Phoebe to Ganymede – poor lamb – while Celia was going overboard in her attempts to get Oliver’s attention when he turned up, spreading herself nonchalantly on the ground in the sort of weird position that only CSI corpses get into. Eventually she came to her senses and just sat there, listening to the story, but she’d made her point.

It Was A Lover And His Lass covered the party preparations, and this time I noticed that when Touchstone said that no one else would have Audrey, William ran forward to protest. He was restrained by some of the others on stage, so the play could proceed as normal. I think Hymen handed out the ribbons to the couples in previous performances; tonight he stayed in the middle of the stage and the women came to take the ribbons from him. The partying was just as much fun as before, and from this angle the dance moves were clearer. We were still happy to have seen this again, but apart from some minor changes and the fresh perspective, there wasn’t anything more to be gleaned from this production.

© 2013 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

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