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Thursday, 2 May 2013

As You Like It
Directed by Maria Aberg
Royal Shakespeare Theatre
Until 28th September
Reviewed on the 18th April 2013 by Luke Taylor age 18

Wrestling, lust, music! What’s not to love about Aberg’s As You Like It. A performance abounding in naughty references, Shakespeare’s As You Like It does not disappoint. The RSC’s bravura performance questions As You Like It’s reputation of being an uncompleted version of 12TH Night.  Aberg successfully modernises the traditional comedy but still maintains the sexual ambiguity in a haughty rendition, which leaves the audience falling in love with the idyllic forest of Arden.
From the tragedy-esque beginning that leaves the audience on the edge of their seat to the perfect party ending, As You Like It fires on all cylinders. This capricious court features a monotonous heartbeat thumping as the gallant Orlando finds himself successfully beating the wrestler Charles. In comparison to the idyllic forest of Arden where liberation occurs as they ‘fleet the time carelessly’, and through all of this Aberg’s directing is unmistakably successful.  Her interpretation of the capricious court in which Rosalind and Celia find themselves creates unnerving tension as the stage lights create an emphatic effect. This effect is used throughout the court scenes and creates an unnerving aura, making the audience relate to the protagonist’s want to escape Duke Fredrick’s despot. Heroine Rosalind is then banished by Duke Fredrick but not before she has stolen Orlando’s heart in what the audience determines as love at first sight. Rosalind and Celia then go in disguises of Ganymede and Aliena, apt names for the sexual antics that take place in forest. Love struck Orlando then follows suit after agreeing to take perennial servant Adam along with him. It is at this point that the stage is transformed from the repressive court to the magical, idyllic forest of Arden, where characters experience liberation.
The staging really is very impressive as the audience find themselves in a hippy camp where characters in essence compete against nature for survival. Celia from here on in takes much more of a back seat which is a shame as her quirky nature evokes much laughter. Orlando and Rosalind are then reunited, however with Rosalind dressed as Ganymede, which results in Rosalind being able to test her lover through wit, wordplay and repartee. Through this relationship both characters explore sexuality with continuous support from the clown Touchstone, much to the amusement of the audience.  We are then introduced to varying amounts of mis fit characters that each experience their own trials in the forest. The play, with out spoiling too much, ends, as is typical of a comedy endings, happily.

A special mention must be made to the director of the music Laura Marling. While the set design is incredible, it is complemented by the songs, which heavily feature the play.  Other productions that I have watched have interrupted the songs in a very rustic way with a single acoustic guitar and a sombre voice. Marling completely reinvents this tradition by having a full folk-like band performing songs, which the audience can’t help but join in with.  Marling’s melodies instil this idyllic view of the forest and further this feel good vibe that makes the play so enjoyable.
To conclude if you would like an easy watch, where your not afraid to laugh at the numerous sexual innuendos, that ends on an uplifting, happy note I couldn’t recommend a better play. Aberg has done an excellent interpretation of a play that has the potential to be quite repetitive and therefore deserves to be extolled.

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