As You Like It

Theatre, West End
3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

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A fitfully fun production of Shakespeare's pastoral comedy with a great turn from Michelle Terry.

There’s plenty to like and a few things not to in this respectful reading of Shakespeare’s pastoral romcom, to which perennial rising star director Blanche McIntyre brings lots of neat little ideas but not much overarching vision.

You’re never going to go particularly wrong with a show starring Globe stalwart Michelle Terry, and she’s great fun as an overbearing, socially awkward Rosalind, whose laddish male alter ego Ganymede – adopted for convoluted Shakespeare reasons upon her exile to the Forest of Arden – is an extension of her amusingly unladylike enthusiasm for Simon Harrison’s ripped Orlando. As is Terry’s custom, she speaks the verse with an effortless clarity that’s a joy to listen to.

Also great is fellow Globe veteran James Garnon as Jaques: he captures the the essential hangdog glumness of Shakespeare’s most emo character, but also invests him with a sense of humour and palpable joy in the language – he gives the impression of being quietly delighted with himself as he improvises the iconic seven ages of man speech (and who wouldn’t be?).

McIntyre sporadically brings in some delightful flourishes, most notably a spectacularly silly interpretation of the hey-nonny-no song that’s almost worthy of Python and certainly offers a lift as the clock heads past ten.

But though there’s a dozen other nifty little ideas and nice performances I could flag up, the whole feels lacking. In a long night, the fun, mad stuff is lobbed in occasionally, rather than constantly, and beyond a very literal reading of ‘all the world’s a stage’, it’s hard to get any sense of what this foliage-free Forest of Arden is, or feel that any big idea has been brought into play. For a comedy about eight people having it off in a forest, there’s not much wood in evidence – Terry’s one-woman dynamo aside, nobody seems to want to get laid, and it all feels more mannered than exuberant.

Still, it’s a solid production, elevated by Terry’s performance and McIntyre’s best ideas. But the crown of best ‘As You Like It’ of the year is still the National Theatre’s for the taking, with its Andrea Riseborough-starring production in the autumn. 

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