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As You Like It, The Albany – Review

William Shakespeare
A Transport Production
Directed by Douglas Rintoul
★★

Pros: This is a different take on a classic Shakespeare comedy. Certainly good for those who know the story well and like to see a new perspective on the play and the world we live in

Cons: Sometimes difficult to follow, this is not recommended for your first venture into the land of the Forest of Arden.

Our Verdict: This production is not going to be for everyone but is certainly a clever take on a classic.

Courtesy of The Albany

Sometimes, some productions just do not work for you personally and unfortunately, this was one of them. As You Like It is not one of my favourite Shakespeare comedies and this production has not altered my feelings on it.

We are greeted by Fisayo Akinade as Silvius (later to play Adam) – an asylum seeker who loves reading and really enjoys As You Like It. He explains the story with a few contemporary references and offers his opinions on it. This was a nice touch and was a way to get the audience to settle into what was going on before launching into the Shakespearean language. Askinade was very watchable throughout and I looked forward to his time on stage.

The story is thus – set in two contrasting communities; city and forest or in this version, city and slums, Rosalind (whose father was previously exiled) and Celia have been turned away from Court. In order to keep safe, they disguise themselves and flee to the Forest of Arden or in this case, the camp for asylum seekers. Rosalind meets her father and discovers a number of truths about herself and others, while meanwhile falling hopelessly in love with Orlando. As you like it is about love, injustice, forgiveness and most importantly for this version, statelessness.

The director, Douglas Rintout, researched carefully in order to devise this piece. He interviewed asylum seekers about feelings of identity and exile, and these feelings were all shown in this production by way of the costumes and set. The lighting was also cleverly used throughout to ensure the audience were focused on the correct area of the open stage and the staging was well executed with simple but effective sliding walls to create new areas.

Some moments which made me chuckle included Colin Carmichael as the court jester, Touchstone, lip syncing to a female opera singer on the radio. However, as a comedy, there were not many of these moments and I couldn’t help but feel this particular instance was only funny because the rest was a bit hard going.

At the end of the first half, my thoughts were spoken out-loud by a few people behind me “ I am really struggling to get what is going on here.”

This is certainly an innovative version performed by critically acclaimed Transport, and I am certain that there will be those who will really enjoy this clever production which has been so carefully researched and put on. However, I personally struggled to “get” it and although the statelessness theme was very clear, being based around asylum seekers, I do not think that this brings as much to the production as I perhaps was hoped.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

As You Like It runs at The Albany until 2nd November.
Box Office: 020 8692 4446 or book online at http://www.thealbany.org.uk/tickets/1054/Theatre/As-You-Like-It

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