It’s always such a treat to go to the Globe, but last night outdid itself; watching a play in an open-air theatre was really the cherry on top of the beautiful Bank Holiday weekend, with a performance of Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It, performed by the Georgian company Marjanishvili.
The performance was really everything you could expect from a reproduction of this timeless play; it was upbeat, carefree, un-dithering and polished, with lovable actors and brilliant drive. A lot of farce was involved, with an ‘open’ backstage area showing the actors not involved in the scene watching intently, egging each other on, prompting forgotten lines and so on. Sound effects were all produced live, with rain sticks, triangles and chimes punctuating the play throughout, as well as an element of song. And it has to be mentioned that the set and costume design was truly beautiful (in amidst, of course, the splendour of the Globe’s stage); umbrellas twirled and leaves swirled to create the Forest of Arden, and at one point balloons were let off through the open roof and out into London.
One thing, though. This play is not in English, but in Georgian. There is no translation, but a screen showing a summary sentence for each scene. All the dialogue is (unless you happen to know Georgian) completely lost in a language barrier, and you really need to familiarize yourself with the play before you go in order to know what’s going on (perhaps take a copy in English and see if you can follow along; the screens actually petered out at one point and people had to resort to their own technology. Had Shakespeare only lived to see the day that people followed his plays with iPads).
It takes quite the punch out of a two-page soliloquy when you don’t understand a word that’s being said, but this was made up for by the energy and physicality of the ensemble. You may feel like the only foreigner at a big family bar mitzvah where you don’t know what’s happening, but you enjoy it all the same because everyone's so enthusiastic. And the play's time-old so therein lies the fun; a truly charming rendition of a classic, and a certain must for those with a taste for international theatre.
As You Like It is running now at the Globe Theatre, Southbank until the 11 May. For more information visit http://www.shakespearesglobe.com/. We saw this performance on a complimentary press ticket.