Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

As You Like It

William Shakespeare
RSC at the Newcastle Playhouse
(2003)

As You Like It stands or falls by its Rosalind and Nina Sosanya is a good 'un! She is the most convincing Rosalind in male disguise that I have ever seen: it is quite believable that others should accept her as a slightly effeminate boy (but less believeable that her father should, but that's Shakespeare, not Ms Sosanya!).

And of course the relationship between Rosalind and Celia has to convince, too, and Naomi Frederick, in her debut season with the company, playing both Celia and an effective Livia in The Tamer Tamed, succeeds admirably too. And do I detect a touch of a young Miranda Richardson in her performance here? I think so.

Martin Hutson's Orlando, too, is another successful piece of casting. Also in his debut season, he brings passion and a beguiling sense of confusion at what is happening to him to the part, thus engaging the audience's sympathies right from the start.

In fact, one could go through the whole cast and make very complimentary comments about every performance. One could also make similar comments about many of the ideas brought to the production by director Gregory Thompson, yet another RSC debutant. In particular, using the cast as the trees of the Forest of Arden onto which Orlando fastens his love poems was a clever idea, amusingly developed.

Why, then, did I come away feeling a little less than satisfied? Partially it was the length: really three and a half hours is too long by fifteen or twenty minutes. There were parts which could be cut without any damage whatsoever to the piece. The Corin scene, for example, or the hunting scene (where, for some peculiar reason, Celia becomes the deer that is killed) could easily be taken out to the betterment of the production.

Some scenes, too, lacked the lightness of touch which the play needs: it should, indeed, be "light and bright and sparkling", but at times was just a little slow. It is lucid and workmanlike, but, apart from Martin Hutson's performance, curiously passionless.

Steve Orme reviewed this production at the Swan, Stratford.

Reviewer: Peter Lathan