As You Like It at the Swan reviewed by site-user Peter Elias
All the world's a stage...but if you like Shakespeare and you want a real treat, then head for the small stage at the Swan Theatre in Stratford.
The Swan in Stratford
Here, until November 2003, you can admire the latest production from the Royal Shakespeare Company as they perform a simple yet powerful interpretation of Shakespeare's tale of love, friendship and human frailty.
As you like it benefits enormously from the intimacy of the Swan, where actors and audience can share both the wit and keen observation on sexual mores that the playwright brings to this romantic comedy about the nature of love.
Rosalind in As You Like It, played by Nina Sosanya
With such an array of talented actors, it is invidious task to pick out any particular performances for mention.
But Nina Sosanya, playing Rosalind, puts in a superb performance as the usurped Duke's daughter and her alter ego, the young Gannymede.
In her disguise as a boy she tests Orlando's love for her in what many regard as one of Shakespeare's most arresting female roles. But it is Touchstone, the court fool (played by John Killoran) who coaxes all the magic out of Shakespeare's script.
Every ounce of Killoran's body brings expression and meaning to this wonderfully comedic character.
Inventive set design
With most of the scenes for this play set in the Forest of Arden, set design typically calls for plenty of trees. But this isn't so in this production.
In an inventive move, the cast become the forest and countryside scenery. Orlando's love notes and poems for Rosalind are scattered around the cast of trees and bushes, who rustle and turn in the wind as the play evolves around them.
At other times the stage is crowded with the cast as sheep and goats. This all sounds silly, but it works well on the little stage. The method school of acting clearly still has much offer!
Tucked away in the top gallery, four musicians provide a superb accompaniment to the fine acting. The combination of flugelhorn, horn, trombone and harmonium gives a 'period' feel to the music that fits well with the play.
At the end of the performance, as the applause died down and the audience began shuffling out of the theatre, the cast returned to the stage in small groups, singing Psalm 23 (The Lord is my Shepherd).
This was a moment to reflect not on the nature of love, but on events taking place elsewhere on a much bigger stage.
For more information on tickets and booking, visit the RSC's website via the link on the left.
Also, read the preview of Taming of the Shrew via the link on the left and return to the website to read John Fenner's review mid-April.