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As You Like It, The Rose, Bankside – Review

William Shakespeare

Directed by Jessica Ruano
★★★★
Pros: Great rendition of Shakespeare’s comedy classic. Enthusiastic performances and superb direction.
Cons: I would have liked the cast to perform the entire play instead of this abridged version.
Our verdict: Shakespeare fans and newbies alike will very much enjoy this bite-sized version of As You Like It. A truly wonderful rendition that leaves you yearning for more.
Courtesy of The Rose
This was my first visit to the historic Rose Theatre in Bankside. I was excited to see the place and also to see how the performers use the excavated remains of the building to create a show worthy of Shakespeare. Have recently seen a production of the heavy-duty Macbeth, light-hearted As You Like It, one of Shakespeare’s most famous comedies, was just the tonic.
Upon entering the theatre, I was greeted with the musty old smell usually reserved for libraries. The charming little theatre didn’t seemed to open up once I saw the huge watery space behind it. The atmosphere is amazing; this was where those in the times of Shakespeare would raucously watch his shows and now here I was. Seated with my small audience of about fifteen, the show began.
As You Like It is the story of two cousins who escape into the wilderness after one’s father banishes the other’s father and subsequently his daughter, Rosalind. With the bond between Rosalind and Celia unbreakable, together they make their journey to safety, and ultimately to love. Shakespeare had a penchant of dressing his women up like men and this play is no exception. Suzanne Marie skilfully transforms her Rosalind into a man as she accompanies cousin Celia, played by Stacy Sobieski into exile. Rosalind’s enamoured Orlando is in his own exile after being persecuted by his brother Oliver.
One thing I must say is that all of the actors were fantastic, particularly those involved in the love rectangle. All four actors give performances that are a credit to Shakespeare’s text. Initially Marie’s Rosalind irritated me greatly but she just as greatly amused me as she transformed herself into the male Ganymede. The comedy was truly in Marie and Sobieski’s performances as they acted their way through the wild, ringing true the play’s opening line ‘All the world’s a stage’. 
Matthew Howill and Tom Hartill play the battling brothers Orlando and Oliver with a delightful amount of banter. Their back-and-forth is truly hilarious throughout and their deadpan, cheery way of advising one another that they did not care an iota about the other’s opinion is fantastic. In fact I enjoyed these moments so much that I would have liked to have seen more of them and of the brothers’ evolving relationship in general.
Performances this good of course point towards good direction. The entire space is used fantastically, complete with characters skipping in the distance for a dramatic, faraway effect. What I feel should be mentioned about the play is that it is an extremely shortened version of Shakespeare’s original. Whilst the company have done a decent job of deciding what parts to cut, my own personal preference would have kept more of the original text in order to get the true comedic intensity from it all. However this is largely because I am never a fan of cutting down Shakespeare in any play.
With all the edits, it is a short evening of theatre. As the actors took a bow I was left sitting there wondering if there might be more to come. I even stayed seated for about 10 minutes after thinking it an interval. It was only when I saw the actors packing up and heading out that I thought I had better be going too! It may not be a long evening, but it’s certainly an enjoyable one.
Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!
As You Like It runs at the Rose, Bankside until the 26th October 2013.
Box office: 0207 261 9565 or book online at http://www.wegottickets.com/location/4020

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