As You Like It

***


Director: Matt Bulmer
ADC Theatre, 5th-9th May

***

Nice choice.  With As You Like It you get a nifty little Easter package: showy violence, tame innuendo, songs and exiles and androgyny.  There are few plays more pleasant to watch, and the ADC has a habit of making things pleasanter, all of those cool flyers and theatrical cocktails.

In the show’s run-up the set had secured considerable anticipation, and the Forest of Ardennes, at least, delivered: a back screen of neon graffiti was torn aside to establish pastoral playground, all firemen’s pole and trickling brook and dappled green lighting.  To resist it would have been glum scandal, akin to resisting Pimms or The Apprentice.  Even the fleeting expressions of terror as actors approached their stage slide provided a little extrinsic entertainment.  The bar chat of the ADC come interval is always an amusement to eavesdrop – “They could have taken the stairs!” – if one welcomes the extermination of any suspension of belief.

The acting was outstanding in movements rather than consistency: Lucy Evans and Ellie Ross made a loveable duo with the chemistry of close cousins; Jaques’ soliloquy was delivered with awesome simplicity, and a quiet darkening of the lights.  Rory Stallibrass hadn’t quite shaken off the musical hysteria of 42nd Street, and yet Orlando is hardly a role that requires subtlety; this Shakespearean comedy carries enough charm to save its over actors.

There was self-indulgence, of course.  Rumours said one night the play was performed wet and green, and some songs strummed on past pleasantries to tedium, audience entirely forgotten.  I liked Oliver and Orlando bonding in drunken celebration, staggering centre stage having won their lovers, but cigarettes and alcohol don’t always secure hilarity.  Touchstone got a few giggles, but even his puns were lost amidst frantic sexual gestures; I laughed more at the bemused expression of the stooge sitting besides me than Adam Hollingworth’s tongue lapping the air.

So it was all flash and rustic glamour; the script demands little more, and nor did the student audience slumping into exam term, satisfied with brief respite.