As we like it

20 June 2008

James Zou

As You Like It has divided critics and audience alike since its debut. It is often seen and performed as a simplistic comedy – a crowd-pleaser lacking the dramatic tension of Shakespeare’s tragedies. This led George Bernard Shaw to call it, As You Like It, as if it sinks down to the level of common audience. The text itself, however, intertwines complex issues of jealousy, family legacy, and gender identity.

In Clare Actor’s May Week production of As You Like It, the choice was made to highlight the comedic aspect of the play, to emphasise a light hearted tone in favour of more nuanced interpretations. This obviously limits the depth of the play, but it is not necessarily a mistake especially in the spirit of May Week. With lively and physical acting, As You Like It is a delightful production for those who want to enjoy an alternative evening of theatre.

A standout performance was provided by Julia Hart in the role of Jaques, one of the lords living in the Forest of Arden. She immerses herself in the melancholic role and delivers each line with clarity and elegance; her performance of the famous “all the world’s a stage” monologue is particularly memorable. Her effectiveness is due to its contrast with the lighthearted tone of the rest of the play. The impression created is that of two different plays, one with Jaques on his own stage.

Imogen Tedbury and Anna Hobbiss lent liveliness and energy to Rosalind and her cousin Celia, respectively. Through them the play’s lightheartedness shines through. One does wonder how Rosalind manages to appear so carefree when her father is usurped and she thrown into exile.

The secluded Clare college garden is the ideal setting for As You Like It. The bushes through which actors enter and exite and the trees that they dance under formed the natural stage to reenact the Forest of Arden. The audience, though, should be wary of being ruthlessly snapped out of  pastoral daydreaming by the sound pollution from various May Week entertainments. A drum ensemble in particular had a knack for providing loud accompaniment during particularly crucial moments of the play, rendering the actors barely audible. To their credit, the actors took this in good spirit, and one of the funniest moments occurred when Jaques danced impromptu to the drumbeat.  

 As You Like It has divided critics and audience alike since its debut. It is often seen and performed as a simplistic comedy – a crowd-pleaser lacking the dramatic tension of Shakespeare’s tragedies. This led George Bernard Shaw to call it, As You Like It, as if it sinks down to the level of common audience. The text itself, however, intertwines complex issues of jealousy, family legacy, and gender identity.

In Clare Actor’s May Week production of As You Like It, the choice was made to highlight the comedic aspect of the play, to emphasise a light hearted tone in favour of more nuanced interpretations. This obviously limits the depth of the play, but it is not necessarily a mistake especially in the spirit of May Week. With lively and physical acting, As You Like It is a delightful production for those who want to enjoy an alternative evening of theatre.

A standout performance was provided by Julia Hart in the role of Jaques, one of the lords living in the Forest of Arden. She immerses herself in the melancholic role and delivers each line with clarity and elegance; her performance of the famous “all the world’s a stage” monologue is particularly memorable. Her effectiveness is due to its contrast with the lighthearted tone of the rest of the play. The impression created is that of two different plays, one with Jaques on his own stage.

Imogen Tedbury and Anna Hobbiss lent liveliness and energy to Rosalind and her cousin Celia, respectively. Through them the play’s lightheartedness shines through. One does wonder how Rosalind manages to appear so carefree when her father is usurped and she thrown into exile.

The secluded Clare college garden is the ideal setting for As You Like It. The bushes through which actors enter and exite and the trees that they dance under formed the natural stage to reenact the Forest of Arden. The audience, though, should be wary of being ruthlessly snapped out of  pastoral daydreaming by the sound pollution from various May Week entertainments. A drum ensemble in particular had a knack for providing loud accompaniment during particularly crucial moments of the play, rendering the actors barely audible. To their credit, the actors took this in good spirit, and one of the funniest moments occurred when Jaques danced impromptu to the drumbeat.