By Julie Wallis twitter.com/NiceNic63
As You Like it at The RSC
Last night I had my first ever experience of live Shakespeare! At The RSC in Stratford-upon-Avon I saw the absolute delight that is As You Like It, and it was beyond magic!
Let me try to summarise the plot: Fredrick (Antony Byrne) has forced his brother into exile. Duke Senior (the banished Duke also played by Antony Byrne) is father to Rosalind (Lucy Phelps), who is in turn cousin to Celia (Sophie Khan Levy). The old Duke is living in the forest. Celia and Rosalind are still living at court with the new duke.
Rosalind goes to the forest disguised as a boy, to look for her father – and by disguised, I mean she puts on a pair of trousers – taking the fool Touchstone (Sandy Grierson) with her and her cousin Celia.
Meanwhile Orlando (David Ajao) who has fallen in love with Rosalind is also in the forest, but when he meets Rosalind he doesn’t recognise her in her disguise and sees only Ganymede (the name she uses as part of her ‘boy disguise‘)
To further complicate matters, Phoebe (Laura Ellsworth) is in love with the ‘boy’ Ganymede and the shepherdess Silvia (Amelia Donkor) is in love with Phoebe, Touchstone is in love with Audrey (Charlotte Arrowsmith). Ganymede promises to make everyone happy and in some weird 16th century sci-fi way a twenty foot tall wood nymph appears and four weddings take place. There are lots more characters but this is a brief synopsis of a big story.
Ok, yes for some of the performance I didn’t 100 percent understand what was happening, or what was being said, as the spoken word of this 400 year old comedy does take some getting used to, but once I had my ear in so to speak this outstanding play is a treasure.
This is a fast-paced farce, instead of three doors, our characters enter the stage via catwalks leading to the central stage or from the back of the stage. But in every other way it is a classic laugh out loud comedy. Mistaken identities, misunderstandings and even some men with no trousers on, when at one point all the cast got changed on stage.
As You Like It was an absolutely inspired choice for a first time experience of Shakespeare as it was really funny and even had a few songs. For the final scene the story, the dancing and the music all came together so beautifully that I welled up, because it was everything I wanted it to be.
If you ever read any Shakespeare at school and decided it was not for you, then As You Like It is the perfect antidote to that dry text, because once good actors say the lines out loud, with passion, humour, cunning and fear running through their lines, that’s when it comes to life, and it really does come to life.
The first half for a complete novice like me, did take a degree of concentration and even then I had to ask my husband a number of questions. I was confused because some of the actors are playing the roles of two different characters, the second half was just a delight from start to finish.
With virtually nothing by way of a set and contemporary clothing in the first scene I was felt a bit disappointed to begin with, it wasn’t as I’d expected. But it just keeps getting better and better throughout until the climatic final scene. It didn’t feel like almost three hours either!
As You Like It? I didn’t like it, I LOVED it, and to see it in The RSC in Stratford-upon-Avon which is a beautiful, beautiful theatre, with the audience sitting around the stage rather than in front of the stage, a style of theatre that William Shakespeare himself would recognise, was a delight. The cast bought the magic to life and I can not wait to see my next Shakespearean play.
In the words of Jacques (Sophie Stanton) “All the worlds a stage and all the men and women merely players”. I loved playing my part last night!
As You Like it is at The RSC until 31st August 2019 and tours Salford, Canterbury, Plymouth, Nottingham, Newcastle, and Blackpool from September 2019 to April 2020. Book tickets here: rsc.org.uk/as-you-like-it
This isn’t a sponsored post. #BrumHour saw As You Like It on the press night with thanks to The RSC.
When not blogging theatre for #BrumHour, Julie Wallis can be found on her own blog at redandgoldweb.wordpress.com