REVIEW: As You Like It
Dani Cugini decides that this warmly witty production is truly As She Likes It. (Get it? Get it? I’ll let myself out.)
The first thing you notice when you walk into the Howard Theatre at Downing College is the set. Alice Attlee and Charlie Clark have done a gorgeous job with it.
The intricacy of the tree, hung with lights and little notes, and the gentle warmth of pinks and oranges in the background sets a Midsummer-Night’s-Dream vibe going immediately. This atmosphere is carried well in the artistic touches of the production, such as Flora de Falbe’s quirky, lively costumes (including many scarves and some rather striking green skinny jeans) and the music, composed by Daniel Duffy and sung beautifully by Emily Collinson. Visually and acoustically, this production is a delight.
The cast took a few scenes to really get energised; perhaps this was down to it being opening night, but some of the speeches were a little stilted and the chemistry a little too muted at the beginning of the play. I’m glad I didn’t give up on it, though, because once everyone ‘settled in’ so to speak, it became a genuine delight to watch. Lola May-Seaton’s Rosalind is coy and mischievously witty, with an infectiously devilish smile; Jake Morris’ Orlando was a little stiff in the first act but wonderfully energised in the second, dragging Isaac Jordan’s Adam about the stage and flinging himself melodramatically at Rosalind’s feet.
There were some other standouts as well: Silvius (Daniel Rasbash) is the best comic presence, with his uncanny comic timing, stage presence and hammed-up French accent. Celia (Daisy Jones) is lovely to watch with her easy, natural delivery, and Hannah Machover as Jaques / Master Touchstone was simply fantastic, at turns hilariously sarcastic and delicately musing.
There were a few hiccups that persisted past the start, most noticeably Adam/Corin’s curious West Country accent that would disappear for a speech and then suddenly reappear as if remembered, but nothing particularly serious.
If you’re looking for a retelling of Shakespeare’s timeless comedy of love and manners, As You Like It at the Howard Theatre will provide a great night out; the cast and crew clearly took a real joy in the production and I wouldn’t be surprised if the hiccups were ironed out after opening night. Shakespeare’s language comes naturally to the performers almost 500 years later, the romance is warm and the comedy at times laugh-out-loud (I’d be surprised if most reviews don’t mention the slow-motion wrestling scene).
Well worth seeing, whether you’re a Shakespeare fan or not.