As You Like It, Shakespeare’s Globe, 2023
Photo: Ellie KurttzIsabel Adomakoh Young (Orlando) and Nina Bowers (Rosalind)
  • Theatre, Shakespeare
  • Recommended


As You Like It

4 out of 5 stars

Joyous queer take on the beloved forest-set comedy


Time Out says

The basic point of ‘As You Like It’ as a performed play is to make Shakespeare’s rambling forest-set romance as much fun as physically possible in order to distract the audience from how meandering the story is. Sure, it’s full of great characters and speeches – including notable banger ‘all the world’s a stage’ – but it’s also basically a bunch of people fannying about in the woods for three hours.

So you need to make it a laugh, and that’s exactly what director Ellen McDougall does with the final outdoor show of the Globe season, a queered-up take that skips over the sadder bits and generally sets its sights on a good time for all.

Pouncing on the plot strand in which heroine Rosalind dresses up as a man in order to expedite her wooing of true love Orlando (for Reasons), McDougall’s ‘As You Like It’ is a cross-dressing extravaganza. In particular, Isabel Adomakoh Young’s ebullient, extravagantly fake-mustachioed Orlando is not so much lesbian coded as pretty much doing this drag king style. But that’s in no way suggesting her performance isn’t heartfelt. In fact the central relationship here is delightful, as the diminutive exile pursues the strapping Rosalind - performed with magnificently OTT blitheness and bluster by Canadian actor Nina Bowers, in the show’s stand-out performance. 

Elsewhere there’s songs, streamers, a poem-writing contest, a wrestling match in the crowd, and a fun turn from Alex Austin as an arch Jacques who sets the mood for the production by playing out the character’s usual studied melancholy as something closer to an ironic affectation.

Added lines by Travis Alabanza feel extraneous: having performer Emmanuel Akwafo say ‘welcome to our queer party’ at the very end feels like a statement of the obvious that might have been more impactful at the start. Jacques’s general jauntiness means ‘all the world’s a stage’ flops a bit. There’s a lack of real chemistry between the couples who aren’t Orlando and Rosalind. It perhaps feels so of a piece with the current Globe aesthetic that it comes across as less playful and provocative than it would like to be.

But it’s fun! Lots of fun! ‘As You Like It’ is a play that can leave audiences lost in the woods if it’s not done right, but I emerged from these forests with a veritable bounce in my step.


£5-£65. Runs 2hr 30min
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