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This colourful and joyous adaptation of As You Like It was a delight from start to finish.  In essence, the story revolves around Rosalind, daughter of the Duke Ferdinand, who has been usurped by his brother Duke Frederick.  Ferdinand has been banished from his court, and now lives in the Forest of Arden with some loyal followers.  Rosalind, once permitted to remain at the court because of her close friendship with Frederick’s daughter Cecilia, has now also been banished, but not before a brief meeting with Orlando, a youth who has been forced to live in poverty by his cruel older brother Oliver.  Cecilia decides to leave court with Rosalind; Rosalind disguises herself as a man named Ganymede, while Cecilia pretends to be his sister Aliena.  Accompanied by the court fool Touchstone, they head into the Forest to find Rosalind’s father.  When lovelorn Orlando comes looking for Rosalind, he finds a young man named Ganymede, eager to school Orlando in the rules of courtship…

Having recently watched the televised performance of this play as performed at The Globe Theatre in 2009, I thought that another performance was going to have to go some way to equal it.  This one does just that though, mainly due to some truly excellent leading performances, and some beautiful music – as well as lots and lots of laughs (I actually had face ache from laughing so much when I left the theatre.)  Pippa Nixon and Alex Waldmann play Rosalind and Orlando, and not only are they both perfect for the roles, but there is some real chemistry between them too.  Nixon makes a terrific Rosalind/Ganymede – in some productions, Ganymede can look too obviously like a girl for the audience to believe that Orlando does not recognise her/him – but here, Nixon is convincing, and androgynously gorgeous when in male character.  (Nixon and Waldmann were both excellent in Hamlet earlier on in this RSC season, so they are two names I will be looking out for in future productions also.) However, I MUST also mention Joanna Horton as Cecilia, Natalie Klamar as Phoebe, and Nicolas Tennant as Touchstone, as also being stand-out performances.  I have a real fondness for the character of Cecilia, because played by the right person, she has the potential to be incredibly funny, and Horton captured that perfectly.  Klamar played the precocious Phoebe wonderfully, and Nicolas Tennant was great at Touchstone, complete with panstick make-up and a clowns red nose.  Actually I generally find clowns to be pretty creepy, so I was slightly taken aback when Touchstone first appeared, but he was so funny that I was completely disarmed!

The scenes in Duke Frederick’s court seemed deliberately cold, and literally dark with dimmed lighting and everyone wearing dark clothes and sombre expressions.  Once the action moved to the Forest however, bright clothes, music and laughter were the order of the day, with even Touchstone changing from his skinny black leggings to bright orange ones. And the ending – well frankly, I don’t know how anyone could not feel uplifted and happy at such a wonderful wedding scene with dancing and laughter.

Overall – a thoroughly great performance, which I only wish I could watch again!

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Click here for my review of the televised live performance of As You Like It at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre (2009)

Click here for my review of the 2006 film adaptation.

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