Shakespeare's hilarious cross-dressing pastoral comedy set in the Forest of Arden is directed by Derek Bond.
There’s one hell of a false start to director Derek Bond’s slow-burning take on Shakespeare’s woodland comedy. The first scenes are a bit of an ordeal, played against a vast and empty stage in a hodgepodge of ’40s costumes, with all the humour and urgency of a department store in liquidation. Expectations all but flatline until the scene is swept aside in a surge of confetti and song as the court of Duke Frederick is transformed into the forest of Arden, and the play snaps into life.
There’s no grand concept behind Bond’s stripped-back staging. The ‘playful and transgressive gender politics’ alluded to in the programme notes are absent. Instead we have strong performances, a slightly arch vibe and a gorgeous folky score from Jude Obermüller. And confetti. Did we mention the confetti? Designer Emma Bailey has a confetti problem and she’s not afraid to show it. It descends like a swarm of festive locusts, bursting from the ceiling at the slightest provocation.
Kaisa Hammarlund is particularly delightful as boisterous noblewoman Celia, supporting a prim Sally Scott as Rosalind, the can-do heroine who goes into exile in Arden when her father is banished from court. Simon Lipkin tears into the role of court jester Touchstone with carefree abandon, ripping up the script and smashing down the fourth wall as he wrings belly laughs from the dry paradoxes of Shakespeare’s second-worst clown.
By the time wedding bells start ringing in Arden you’ll be firmly onside, but the play needs a stronger start and a touch more conceptual coherence to pull its attractive parts into a satisfying whole.
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I am not a Shakespeare purist. I must confess that the last time I saw a Shakespeare on stage was several years ago. So I was slightly apprehensive about coming to see a comedy that I new little about. Boy was I wrong to have that worry.
This is a delightful production, full of charm and wit that had me grinning throughout. There are hilarious moments and the show is so well paced that not once was I checking for the time, a habit that many a west end production has led me towards.
Congratulations to all involved. As I said, Shakespeare knowledge does not become me, but as a regular theatre goer I was entertained thoroughly and understood the show from start to finish. I even had a soft spot for the beautiful confetti!
I saw the play yesterday and whist it is still early days in that it has only just opened I was disappointed. As You Like It, if performed well, is a very funny play. Successful Shakespeare depends on the actors understanding the meaning of what they are saying and I am afraid this did not seem to be the case. There were some nice touches, the snow and the leaves, the minstrels and the wrestling scene. But all in all a hard watch.