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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  London Theatre Reviews

at Shakespeare's Globe


  Simon Harrison and Michelle Terry/ Ph: Simon Kane

More than other, leafier open-air theatres, Shakespeare’s Globe suits As You Like It. There’s some connection between this bare wooden stage in the middle of a modern city, and the joyful imaginative leap required to conjure up a forest idyll where love flourishes and courtly intrigue dissolves. Blanche McIntyre’s robust, Elizabethan-dress production here arguably overplays the comedy at the expense of romance, but it has a very strong heart, in the shape of Michelle Terry’s Rosalind.

Although she is not all that much “more than common tall,” Terry’s impish face and dark brown voice lend themselves to the disguised Rosalind’s boyish alter ego, Ganymede. Although she wrings pathos from Rosalind’s early unhappiness and exile, Terry’s Rosalind is above all a fine comic creation, wavering between blurting lust and wordless stammering when she first falls for Simon Harrison’s muscular but otherwise underpowered Orlando. Her speaking of the verse is musical one minute, forceful the next. She is hugely expressive, physically vivacious and enjoys a nice feminine complicity with Ellie Piercy’s appealingly independent Celia.

These two strong women are balanced by a well-matched pair of clowns, James Garnon’s fruity, courtly Jaques and Daniel Crossley’s more extravagant, petulant Touchstone. The rural characters play well too in this setting, with particularly broad but effective comic work coming from Gwyneth Keyworth’s Welsh Phebe and Sophia Nomvete’s lascivious Audrey.

This production reminds you more forcefully than most that this play belongs to the women and the fools, the supposed male authority figures and romantic leads fading into the undergrowth. It’s probably not fair to criticise Harrison; I remember Dominic West, that most charismatic and masculine of actors, disappearing into Orlando in the West End in 2005.

This is a simply staged romp, but McIntyre still springs a couple of agreeable surprises, two of them involving bulky, bearded Gary Shelford. Having first appeared as Charles the wrestler, he later joins Touchstone and Audrey in an impromptu tap dance, and then returns as Hymen at the closing marriage ceremony, mortified beneath a crown of antlers. Nature and femininity triumph here, and Shakespeare’s Arden glows warmly even in a cold London evening. I was won over.


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