A queered up and reconceived As You Like It doesn’t quite hit the mark at Shakespeare’s Globe
“We that are true lovers run into strange capers”
It’s been a moment since I’ve been to Shakespeare’s Globe. As part of trying to redress the theatre/life balance, it felt like a bit of an easy win to just say I don’t really need to see much more Shakespeare as a whole. But I’m always open to be tempted back in with an ostensibly fresh new take and Ellen McDougall’s outdoor debut at the South Bank venue offered that for me.
This queered-up, gender fluid and highly inclusive As You Like It comes replete with additional text from Travis Alabanza and contemporary music cues aplenty and so should be right up my straße. And in some ways it is, the relationship between Rosalind and Celia as played by Nina Bowers and Macy-Jacob Seelochan is brilliantly charged with flirty freedom and genuine warmth and it utterly reinvigorates the play in a way I scarcely thought possible.
Sadly, nothing else in the production comes close to capturing the same magic. There’s lots of fun to be sure – Isabel Adomakoh Young’s Orlando proves sweet rather than sexy but ultimately connects a little too late with Bowers’ Rosalind and Alex Austin plays Jaques on a major comedown which is fun but junks too much gravitas with it. Alabanza’s textual interventions jar terribly though, no discernible purpose coming through.
That is kinda the vibe that predominates overall. There’s joyousness abounding on the stage, in the representation being reflected here at a venue like this. But a production with little variety in its approach always has a danger in seeming tonally flat – there’s little real melancholy to deepen the work here beyond the party vibe, to make us feel something beyond pride.