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June, 2003
Cherry blossom flowers in Arden forest
Actors in As You Like It
As You Like It is brought to life at the Oxford Playhouse

Victoria Roddam ponders the meaning of life at an innovative new student production of Shakespeare's own 'favourite' comedy, As You Like It.

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As You Like It
June 4-7
The Oxford Playhouse

By Victoria Roddam

"In a twenty-first century plagued by a sense of dissatisfaction," says the director of Shunned Ambition's new production of As You Like It, "melancholy seems a very appropriate theme."

The Japanese cherry blossom is featured heavily in As You Like It at the Oxford Playhouse.

Indeed, Polly Findlay's unusual choice of Japanese theatre and culture as a backdrop to the exploits in the Forest of Arden does indeed bring out the philosophical elements of this mournful comedy in an innovative and thought-provoking manner.

Subtle lighting and a slick, stylish presentation give this production a polished and professional quality.

Prasanna Puwanarajah (Jacques) and Lorna Beckett (Celia/Adam) deserve particular praise for their nuanced and naturalistic performances, while Lily Sykes as Rosalind warmed to the part considerably in the Second Act after a hesitant start.

Mark Lowen's Orlando was competently played by Mark Lowen, albeit in a pedestrian manner (a fault of the character rather than the actor, one suspects) while Ilan Goodman made a rather-unbelievable Oliver, but a delightfully entertaining Audrey.

The strength of this production - its theme of Japanese minimalism, and the Zen-like stillness it induces - is, however, also its one weakness.

The mournful melancholy which pervades the end of Act 2 (the most powerful moment of the play) and occurs again at the very end, is perfectly suited to such an approach. But the moments of high comedy are not and this creates a somewhat uneven feeling to the production.

This is a shame, since these farcical episodes were brilliantly rendered (with particular credit for some beautifully portrayed sheep!) But again, there was a disjointed feel to the production, which wasn't entirely dispelled by an overly-clever ending.

In a nutshell, it was an enjoyable, professional, but sometimes rather emotionless interpretation of As You Like It.

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