Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre is somewhere that I have wanted to visit for a long time, and I was very fortunate that my first (but certainly not my last) visit there was to see this wonderful production of one of Shakespeare’s best-loved comedies.
Briefly, the story of As You Like It centres on Rosalind, the daughter of a Duke who has been banished from his own court by his brother. Rosalind has been allowed to stay at the court because the new Duke’s daughter Celia (Rosalind’s cousin) and she are great friends, but the new Duke worries that Rosalind might commit treason and banishes her from the court too, but not before Rosalind has met and instantly fallen for Orlando, a young man who has been denied his birthright by his older brother. Rosalind and Celia run away to the Forest of Arden, with Rosalind disguised as a man named Ganymede, and Celia disguised as a servant girl named Aliena. There, Rosalind again meets Orlando, who is pining for her, but doesn’t realise that his new friend is in fact the girl he fell in love with at the court.
Meanwhile, young shepherd Silvius is in love with shepherdess Phebe, but she in turn has fallen for a young man named Ganymede (!) And there are also love problems for Touchstone, the court jester who has accompanied Rosalind and Celia on their adventure. I don’t think it’s giving anything away to say that it all gets sorted out in the end, but there is much confusion and – for the audience – much hilarity along the way.
As You Like It is one of my favourite comedies, and this production was simply superb. Michelle Terry was absolutely wonderful as Rosalind – captivating and funny, and frankly adorable. I also loved Simon Harrison as Orlando, and was not the only female in the audience to share in Rosalind’s delight when he took his shirt off near the beginning of the play! James Garnon, who will be familiar to many who have been to the Globe before (or who, like me, have watched televised performances from the Globe) played Jacques, the melancholy, cynical Lord, who lives with the banished Duke and his men in the forest. This character can occasionally seem surplus to requirements (apart from his famous All the World’s A Stage speech, and his Seven Ages of Man speech), but in the capable hands of Garnon, Jacques was not only enjoyable, but actually essential to the play. Special mention also to Ellie Piercey as Celia – who has ALWAYS been one of my favourite characters in this play – and Daniel Crossley as Touchstone. (Touchstone is another very divisive character, with many people finding him annoying or pointless; however, in this production, he was lovable, funny and – unexpectedly – a marvellous tap dancer!)
To say that the play was funny would be a huge understatement. It was actually hilarious, largely due to the gutsy and uninhibited performance of Michelle Terry, and the whole audience seemed very appreciative of the entire, excellent cast.
To sum up – a wonderful production, in a beautiful setting. If you get chance to see this play, take it – you won’t regret it!
(Click here for more information about Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, or this production.)