Review: As You Like It, Digital Theatre

“If my uncle, thy banished father, had banished thy uncle, the duke my father…”

Against my better judgement, I bought the RSC’s As You Like It ages ago when a special offer came up for it but it has languished on my hard-drive ever since as I have serious AYLI fatigue and no real desire to watch it again. It is one of those Shakespeares that seems to pop up with unfailing regularity and I’ve grown tired of it to be honest – occasionally a production will surprise with a stunning central performance as did Cush Jumbo at the Royal Exchange but usually I’m left weary by the lack of inventiveness in productions which end up blurring into one another in my mind.

And that’s how I felt in the end about this 2010 Michael Boyd-directed production featuring the Long Ensemble. It is undoubtedly well-performed: Katy Stephens’ bright intelligence is perfectly suited to the determined Rosalind and well matched with Jonjo O’Neill’s passionate Orlando, Richard Katz’s wild-haired Touchstone is well observed and having become accustomed to this group of actors, I liked the smaller parts played by the likes of Christine Entwisle, Dyfan Dwyfor and Charles Aitken.

But it was largely quite indistinct – little of the production remained in my head after I watched it, save the things that niggled me. How annoying Celia is, played a little too well by Mariah Gale whose stroppiness and insistence on playing the third wheel wasn’t entirely enjoyable; and I didn’t much like Forbes Masson’s Bill Bailey-esque Jaques, his music consequently feeling more like a delaying tactic than an integral part of his performance. And I’d forgotten about the rabbit skinning that caused so much kerfuffle when the play went to the US, to my mind it seemed most random and a rather unnecessary addition in the end.

The filming of the show didn’t really work for me either. There’s far too many audience shots – if one is paying to watch a show, then I expect to see the show and not the people enjoying themselves in the audience (although it was quite fun to spot @3rdspearcarrier chuckling away to himself). And there seemed to have been a little over-zealousness in the editing suite as the cutting is often quite manic, seemingly trying to introduce a level of energy which isn’t necessary (but is assumably trying to capture something of the openness of the thrust stage with its multiple entrances). So a bit of a disappointment all told, but serves me right for buying something that I wasn’t keen on in the first place, special offer or not.

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