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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  London Theatre Reviews

 
AS YOU LIKE IT
at Shakespeare’s Globe

FALLING IN LOVE WITH ROSALIND
By MICHAEL COVENEY

  Naomi Frederick and Laura Rogers

A sticker on the front of the program for Thea Sharrock's  joyous, traditionally costumed revival at the Globe states that the epilogue has been included, a pointed reference to one of several deficiencies in the RSC's new version of the same play at Stratford-upon-Avon.

Whereas Michael Boyd's RSC is dark, grungy and in many ways tilted deliberately towards how we dislike it, the Globe comes alive with pungency and freshness. Key to this is Rosalind, Shakespeare's most enchanting heroine, who intervenes in so many lives as an emotional fixer and relationship counsellor, and finally in ours at the epilogue.

The RSC's Katy Stephens - so marvellous in the RSC Histories last year - is denied the chance of clinching this deal. In the Globe, after the traditional company jig that incorporates a disco beat, Naomi Frederick  bids farewell and moves us to tears.

Well, she certainly moved me, and the two merry wives from Kent I sat next to at a packed sunshine matinee -the ladies couldn't say goodbye to me because they were too choked up.

We must fall in love with Rosalind, and we do with Frederick, who plays her alter ego, Ganymede, in the Forest of Arden kitted out in sexy brown leathers, an identical costume to Jack Laskey's febrile Orlando.

Frederick has the pert, androgynous appeal of a Pre-Raphaelite beauty or a Mitford Girl: and she's a wonderfully adroit comic actress who came to prominence last year in the Celia Johnson role in Kneehigh's Brief Encounter in the West End and she pitches right into the audience, a tactic abetted in Dick Bird's  design which builds an extra forestage and two wooden promontories. She's adorable.

It's hard to explain, but every member of the cast seems to have the right sense of humour. The editing and cutting is good, too, so that the playing time is just over two-and-a-half hours including a long interval. When Tim McMullan's  basso, lugubrious Jaques - a sort of less grand Alan Rickman - draws the fools into a circle, those fools are us, and his following "All the world's a stage" speech a further demonstration of our human fallibility.

Not every production at the Globe includes the audience in this kind of gestural sweep, and this is not confined to the usual jolly-up approach. Touchstone, so often an unfunny drag in As You, is played with genuine stand-up brio, and a fiercely controlled panache, by Dominic Rowan, as if on holiday from his own sensible reputation at the National and Donmar.

Rowan starts as the full court jester in cap and bells, but also has a proper pedigree, so that the court and country manners scene with Sean Kean's  basket-weaving Corin (doubled with Charles the wrestler) for once carries a real frisson and he turns the "seven causes" speech into a mimetic turn, too.

At Stratford, Forbes Masson's Jaques has appropriated the songs of Amiens (not a bad idea) but Peter Gale's nicely modulated forester has claimed them back, and Stephen Warbeck's  settings are really beautiful. Other delights in one of the best As You's  of recent years are Trevor Martin's  gravelly old Adam, Laura Roger's playful Celia and the surprise appearances in the pit of the goatherd (complete with his own bells and baying noises)-Ewart James Walters as a black-garbed god of marriage and Orlando's poems, tumbling in profusion through the summer sky.

 


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