Theatre Review: As You Like It
Rebekah Chilvers reviews a Shakespearian classic with an unusual contemporary twist.
On Saturday 19th October, Transport Theatre Company brought their unique production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It to the Gulbenkian Theatre. Directed by Douglas Rintoul, and co-produced with Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg and New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich; the play focused on the theme of love in the modern-day, with the subject of asylum-seekers bringing a new relevance to the story of Rosalind and Orlando.
Transport’s As You Like It was a play within a play, the first level of which was set at a refugee camp with the narrator, Adam (Fisayo Akinade), and his eight fellow asylum-seekers. This was the opening and closing setting for the play, as the second level – the actual story of As You Like It – was seen through Adam’s eyes as he studied the text. The transition between the two levels was executed smoothly, and the actors, Akinade in particular, play their different characters convincingly – differentiating themselves from their past incarnations with contrasting costumes and accents.
The comedic side of As You Like It was left mainly to Colin Michael Cormichael, who portrayed both the court jester Touchstone and the musician Amiens, and successfully added a lighter side to the otherwise serious and dark play. His ‘singing’ (which was in fact, miming) to opera and jazz music was sincerely entertaining and earned many hearty laughs from the audience.
The fact that this adaptation somewhat disregarded the comedic aspect of As You Like It was not an issue; the sombre nature of this production worked, because it was constant. From the moment the lights went out at the start of Act I, eerie music was played until the actors came on stage.
Designer Hayley Grindle’s minimalistic set gave the audience an immediate sense that this production would not be as romanticised as in other productions. Helicopter sound effects and extreme bright lights (that contrasted with the otherwise dim set) used when the powerful and villainous Duke Frederick came on, added to this sense of all things dark.
As You Like It’s cast, only nine actors playing 18 different characters in total, were as a whole fantastic. The only criticism that I had was that occasionally the speech was mumbled and quiet, but this was only a minor fault in what was otherwise coherent.
Shakespeare’s comedy was translated into a relevant and modern story of love and freedom, with sombre undertones which reflected the play’s central message.
So overall, did I like As You Like It? Yes, I liked it.