Pros: Watching Eleanor Henderson perform as Rosalind makes Shakespeare’s verses easy-going and great fun.
Cons: If the weather does not comply, umbrellas seriously limit the line of vision.
As you like it is Shakespeare’s comedy about two cousins, Rosalind and Celia and their adventures in the forest of Arden after fleeing the French court for political reasons. Rosalind, dressed as a man to better avoid being captured is in love with Orlando, who has also been made to flee by his older brother Oliver. Celia helps Rosalind discover whether Orlando’s intentions towards her are honest and as Shakespeare goes: everyone is in love with everyone else. Eleanor Henderson and Clemmie Reynolds as Rosalind and Celia, Callum McGowan and Orlando and the rest of RADA’s Burntout cast give life to all of the characters.
Leaving the notion of Elizabethan costumes behind, the play was set among the turbulence of post World War I; knights, dukes and princes dressed as soldiers marching onto the stage, wearing the greens and greys of England’s field uniforms with a British flag waving in the back of the stage, and the same for the ladies: Rosalind wanders through Arden in a full explorer outfit. Although some French elements were still present (the occasional French accent), Arden takes the form of Robin Hood’s Sherwood and it could not be a more perfect setting. The stage was selected among the greens of Russell Square Gardens. An area of the garden marked with a string informed us of where the story would take place.
As with all open-air theatre, you must be lucky enough that the weather goes along with your intention of sitting down for a couple of hours and enjoying the show. Unfortunately, from the moment we arrived, it drizzled steadily but I must say it did not dampen the performance or the actor’s spirits whatsoever. Watching the cast have fun and truly deliver even when soaking wet was really something to behold.
The play starts and people enter and leave the space acting as stage, although sparsely decorated (it is after all an open air performance) the way the actors became part of the staging, sometimes by holding branches to give form to the deep foliage of Arden and others by being silent witnesses around the events taking place giving a sense of mystery means there really isn’t need for anything else to make it intricate and spellbinding. Live music from James Reynolds partners adds life to the story too.
Shakespeare’s lines can sometimes get a little fuzzy throughout the act but the RADA cast made them completely accessible. Rosalind being the main character was always on focus and the way Eleanor Henderson brought her part to life effortlessly. The lines flow through with such charisma and nonchalance it felt like real events happening in front of you. Rosalind is sweet, gutsy and fun. Romantic moments between her and Orlando are paired with brilliant comedy and even the rain didn’t seem to matter!
Author: William Shakespeare
More Information: http://www.burntouttheatre.co.uk/whats-on/