Review: As You Like It, by William Shakespeare, Transport Theatre Company, New Wolsey Theatre

In essence this play is about aspects of love explored through the machinations of four couples, principally Rosalind and Orlando (Elisabet Johannesdottir and Michael Fox) and Celia and Oliver (Anna Elijasz and Alton Letto). Into this comedic mix, where a father does not recognise his daughter dressed as a boy and a lover fails to discern that boy to be the love of his life, director Douglas Rintoul introduces the modern predicament of asylum seekers to exaggerate the theme of exile and the chance to re-invent oneself. We see the play through the eyes of a refugee (Fisayo Akinade) who studies Shakespeare at the Calais migrant camp.

Action takes place in the contrasting worlds of the usurped Duke Senior (George Lasha) in the mystical Forest of Arden, and the harsh court of his brother Frederick (Mark Jax) which causes the young Orlando to follow the Duke into banishment. Rosalind (disguised as a man) and her cousin Celia also escape into the forest and there it all begins, as the characters explore the fundamentals of life in the timelessness of the forest.

Rintoul has gathered a cast of several nationalities and apart from Rosalind and Orlando all the players take more than one part. Rosalind is the longest female role in Shakespeare and more than his words are needed to portray this feisty, pragmatic young woman. Johannesdottir managed admirably but both she and Fox sometimes relied on words and not enough on the passion that should have flared between them.

The court jester Touchstone (Colin Michael Carmichael) brought more than one scene to life and amused us with excellent miming to opera and jazz.

Rintoul took some liberties with the Bard’s work but what, after all, is the point of a play that has no significance to its audience? Rintoul gave Shakespeare a novel viewpoint and made it relevant and entertaining.

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Carol Twinch

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