As You Like It

Theatre, Shakespeare
4 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
(9user reviews)
 (© Johan Persson)
© Johan PerssonRosalind Craig (Rosamond), Patsy Ferran (Celia)
 (© Johan Persson)
© Johan PerssonJoe Bannister (Orlando), Leon Annor (Charles)
 (© Johan Persson)
© Johan PerssonLeon Annor (Charles) and Joe Bannister (Orlando)
 (© Johan Persson)
© Johan PerssonLeo Wringer (Duke Frederick)
 (© Johan Persson)
© Johan PerssonPaul Chahidi (Jaques)
 (© Johan Persson)
© Johan PerssonRosalie Craig (Rosamond), Alan Williams(Corin)
 (© Johan Persson)
© Johan PerssonPhilip Arditti(Olivier), Patsy Ferran (Celia)
 (© Johan Persson)
© Johan PerssonJoe Bannister (Orlando), Rosalie Craig (Rosalind),
 (© Johan Persson)
© Johan PerssonPatsy Ferran (Celia), Rosalind Craig (Rosamond)
 (© Johan Persson)
© Johan PerssonPaul Chahidi (Jaques), Joe Bannister (Orlando)
 (© Johan Persson)
© Johan PerssonRosalie Craig (Rosalind), Joe Bannister (Orlando)
 (© Johan Persson)
© Johan PerssonRosalie Craig (Rosalind), Joe Bannister (Orlando)
 (© Johan Persson)
© Johan PerssonSiobhan McSweeney (Audrey), Mark Benton (Touchstone)

An endearingly eccentric production of Shakespeare's maddest comedy

Fresh from Damon Albarn’s ‘’ musical, Rosalie Craig has stepped down another kind of rabbit hole: Shakespeare’s wordiest female role, Rosalind, in one of his weirdest plays. But Polly Findlay’s stunning new production turns its surreal charms into a Technicolor wonderland that’s full of warmth, as well as nonsense, with Craig as its Queen of Hearts.

Polly Findlay’s offering is the first ‘As You Like It’ at the National for 36 years, and it’s easy to see why directors might have been scared off by its idiosyncratic charms. It’s been described as the first ever sketch show: snappy, slipping from scene to scene in wild forestland. And it’s completely dominated by the proto-feminist powerhouse that is Rosalind, who dresses up as a boy to check her lover is up to scratch.

Craig herself is more than up to the role: warm, masculine without ever resorting to flat-capped, thigh-slapping pantomime, and ready with a wisecrack for every occasion. Patsy Ferran is the perfect comic foil as her cousin Celia: she has the endlessly mobile eyebrows of Mr Bean’s granddaughter with none of his indigestible flatulence. Together, the two zip gleefully through their escape from Celia’s noble father’s repressive court, and into a forest of romantically-inclined political exiles.

Lizzie Clachan’s design manages the visual transition from repressive order to wild wood chaos with the most spectacular scene change the National has housed in years. We start in a kind of Wes Anderson-pretty pastel office: only the tiny shades of the desk bonsai trees and leafy screensavers hint at the wild, darker transformation to come.

Such visually witty touches are typical of Findlay’s genius for injecting what could be staid historical eccentricity with wit, life and fun. The opening wrestling match is a Lycra-clad, ‘Mortal Kombat’ style romp. A dull philosophical dialogue with a shepherd is brightened up by a cast of sheep baa-ing in Aran sweaters, one chomping through a love poem. And the whole play is shot through with divine harmonies from a vast chorus, chirping from high branches or whispering like spring breezes.

In a typically perverse move for this weirdest of plays, the biggest speech is given to a melancholy outsider who stands apart from its tangled love games: ‘all the world’s a stage’, laments Jaques, stiff as a Mormon at an orgy. His awkwardness is all the more poignant in a production that’s brilliantly natural, fresh, and bang up to date.

Read an interview with Rosalie Craig 

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By: Alice Savile


Average User Rating

4 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:4
  • 4 star:3
  • 3 star:1
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:1
1 person listening
1 of 1 found helpful

Mad, bright, endearing....... great fun!

Initially, I found the disconnect between the sets, costumes and language quite unsettling.

It wasn't until I got over worrying about where it was set, when it was set or why they were wearing those clothes that I began to allow myself to just enjoy the inventiveness of the show.

It was like a wild, mildly hallucinogenic, night out with people that began the evening as apprehensive acquaintances but ended the night as firm friends.

It was funny, entertaining, contemporary and endearing. I enjoyed it immensely, I hope the critics enjoy it too.

Staff Writer

Very modern and original setting for this classic Shakespeare's play. At the beginning i felt there was a disconnect between the classic Shakespeare's text and the staging but then I got into it and loved it. The staging is beautiful, some parts include signing and pantomime. A beautiful production that will not leave you without emotions. It was both funny and endearing, We greatly enjoyed it with my partner and did not regret getting these tickets. Go watch it until it's on stage!


Weird production for a strange text; it does work sometimes, but still disappointing. The stage setting and clothes design at the beginning of the play is pointless. There is no real reason for the office-like setting or amount of colour; it seems it is attempting to bring the play for the present day (or the 1980’s,?!), but it has absolutely no relevance to the story...
But when it’s transformed in the forest it is quite amazing. Really beautiful, and it creates the perfect atmosphere for the rest of the play. Sound and music also get inspired use when in the forest; the occasional whisper or whistle amplifies the forest vibe creating the space for no many little stories inside the play.
And the same goes for the performance itself. The text has enough jokes that competing visually with it seems unnecessary – a fight transformed in goofy wrestling is especially cringe worthy. But when it adds to the story it has brilliant moments – the sweater-dressed sheep were quite amusing.
It is worth watching, but definitely not unmissable.

This is slightly disconcerting at first but the original setting, and extremely modern staging work quite well, with a staggering change of scenery which is quite a feat. Enough pantomime to make up for the puns and literary jokes a non-native like will have trouble grasping.


What? Modern Shakespeare set in a Stratford upon Avon office and of course the forest of Arden.

Where? Available to watch in the national youth theatre, southbank, London

Tickets? Ticket prices vary so see the website for details but front row seats are around 50 pounds

How to get there? Prefer to drive as its not hard to find parking for evening performances and many new car parks have been built in the area with special night rates if you leave before 00:00.

Is it worth it? Absolutely. An incredibly talented signing, dancing and diverse cast complete with hilarious script, outfits and artistic stage effects.

Just getting to the national theatre is an experience in itself as you walk along the Thames river, past a glowing London eye and other beautifully lit landmarks. There are plenty of bars and restaurants for dinner and drinks before the performance begins, one of my favourites being PingPong Dimsum.

Having studied the books at school many people probably know the story of Shakespeare’s As You Like It however the modern, London twist makes this drama / conedy as unpredictable as if it were freshly written.

The complicated stage effects were absolutely worth the technical issues and enforced pause that ensued, more time to top up the wine. I have to admit the show was so much more entertaining and comic than I had originally anticipated and despite the general demographic being rather older, it certainly catered to an audience of all ages complete with live wrestling match, real fire and floating desks.

The other highlight was in the foyer of the National Theatre, where there was an Alice in Wonderland Themed exhibition. This included virtual reality headsets that truly creeped you out, transporting you into an interactive LSD loaded wonderland. What made this all the more ridiculous to watch for spectators was that these headsets were located in none other than a slimy abandoned girls toilets…  


This is a really whimsical and fun production of As You Like It.  The cast are fabulous and clearly don’t take themselves too seriously - watch out for the sheep!  It’s an extremely cheesy play, but it’s good to have something light-hearted from Shakespeare every so often.  The staging is amazing and the change in scenery is one of the best moments of the play.

Spectacularly Brilliant! Once again the National Theatre has amazed me with the use of their set, setting this historical play in a modern day office I was initially thrown and thought I'd entered the wrong stage! However it was utterly brilliant- a must see!

2 words: Truly Amazing.

I am no Shakespeare aficionado, but my wife is and both she and I were spellbound by all parts of the production. 

(I have since read a review in the Telegraph which was scathing and gave a 2 star from 5 rating, which is utter twaddle.) 

The natural humour of the script, oddly still relevant today, was enchantingly captured in the excellent performances from all of the actors (major and minor) - although my favourite was from the actress playing Celia.

The set is without doubt one of the most effective and atmospheric that I have seen in some years and the supporting actors, whose animal calls send chills down the spine from beginning to end, were amazingly well executed.

This great production was LOL after LOL after LOL so there Telegraph nerd! 

(Congratulations to all).