Shakespeare's Trashy Crowd-Pleaser As You Like It Comes To The Globe

By James FitzGerald Last edited 38 months ago
Shakespeare's Trashy Crowd-Pleaser As You Like It Comes To The Globe ★★★★☆ 4

"As You Like It" production shot
Simon Harrison and Michelle Terry as Orlando and Rosalind in As You Like It. Photo by Simon Kane.

Londonist Rating: ★★★★☆

Girl meets boy, falls in love, follows boy into the depths of a forest, woos him while dressed up as a boy, and orchestrates a marriage with boy. Just like the Elizabethan woodland fantasy setting in which she conducts it, there is something of the bewildering and the dangerous in the behaviour of As You Like It's heroine Rosalind. Michelle Terry carries it off with a harmony of giggly energy and domineering mannishness.

Did you like it? George Bernard Shaw insisted that Shakespeare gave this comedy a “not me, guv” sort of title so he wouldn’t be heckled for putting out what GBS felt was a trashy crowd-pleaser. As you like it, audience. Not as I like it. Whether or not you agree with Shaw, he certainly had a point that Shakespeare was having a laugh at his punters for a change. When Jaques is asked at the end of Act II what he’s signing, he says it’s a “Greek invocation” — and explains, with a wry gesture to his orbital audience in the Globe, that he’s doing so “to call fools into a circle.”

As the sunglass-sporting fool Touchstone might observe, fools will transcend ages. It’s fitting that director Blanche McIntyre peppers her production with a few dashes of foolish 2015; a time in which emotional expression has been so reduced. As you “like it” on Facebook, so you duck out of “real”, authentic communication — which is one of the play’s key concerns.

So, why are we mortals all “fools”? Because of the baggage we bring along to the game of love. For love is nothing but a game — of dress-up and dancing — in McIntyre’s whimsical but tender production. At one moment, the love-baggage is made real: a wedding ceremony is almost conducted with the apparatus extracted from... a wheelie shopping trolley.

In the topsy-turvy universe of As You Like It, romance and truth flourish in the supposed wildness of the forest, while only violence and envy thrive in the gentile communities — as is proven in an unforgettably funny early scene involving a wrestling match at the royal residence. Rosalind’s escape into the forest is an escape from shrill barbarism into sweet rusticity, from prose to poetry. It’s an eccentric journey; the personalities are peculiarities, and it’s the ladies who run the show. But the lovers’ dopey exchanges easily sustain three hours, and all the Globe’s a stage, when it comes to immersion and spreading the action throughout the venue.

As You Like It runs until 5 September 2015 at Shakespeare's Globe, 21 New Globe Walk, Bankside, London, SE1 9DT. Tickets from £5. Londonist saw this performance with a complimentary ticket.

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Last Updated 24 May 2015