How do you like your 'As You Like It'?
By Dakarai Jane Bonyongwe
The Royal Shakespeare has delivered a version of William Shakespeare’s ‘As you Like It’ which I’m sure everyone who has watched it will remember, if only for the fact that they were made a part of it. Never have I been to a play where an audience was encouraged to share in saying a character’s lines, but I found myself, alongside the rest of the audience, responding to Touchstone’s leading as though we were at a concert and he was trying to get us to sing along to his bestselling track. It was just one of the many memorable things about this play, seeing as the entire recreation was chaotic. Pancakes were flying into the crowd, red sequined tank tops were on display for the world to see, and the fourth wall was much like the sun: there one moment and gone the next, though you know it’s always lurking somewhere nearby.
It was by far the most entertaining Shakespeare performance I’ve been to and the mood of the audience seemed to suggest that they felt the same way about it. However, liking it was a conscious choice and I had to subdue my inner Shakespeare snob that wanted a more traditional production. I admit, I wasn’t enthusiastic about some of the performance choices, such as the transition from the Duke’s house to the forest of Ardennes. The switch was the kind of chaos that you would expect to see backstage, not onstage before the audience. Characters were looking for their outfits for a wardrobe change, and the set was changed before our eyes. It was a confusing moment which took time to understand, I thought that the interval had begun for a moment. It bordered on the edge of the line between being successful and just looking unprofessional. Not to mention that the Duke stripped on stage, to the aversion of my young eyes. On the other hand, the performers themselves committed to the absurdities so thoroughly that you had no choice but to join in as though nothing out of the ordinary was occurring.
While I didn’t care much for the onstage chemistry between Orlando and Rosaline, or any of the other relationships, I admire the individual chemistry performers had with their own roles. You could see an element of their actual personalities come through in their acting which I thought made the overall performance all the more believable. I enjoyed Rosaline and Celia’s friendship the most as it resembled a modern-day friendship typical of what you’d expect to see here at university, or just in day-to-day life. I also can’t end this review without commending Lucy Phelps for her performance of Rosalind as Ganymede; she singlehandedly brought out the outlandishness of the entire ordeal. As she performed all I could think was ‘she’s crazy’ and that to me was the evidence of how well she delivered on the role. I would highly recommend you go and watch this performance if you can. While it’s no longer on in Canterbury, its being performed in Nottingham until the 7th of March, Newcastle from the 11th - 21st March, and Blackpool from the 25th – 4th of April.
Images courtesy of The Royal Shakespeare Company