So, as part of my due diligence, directing As You Like It, I like to go back and look at some of the past versions of the play that I can find on film or video. Now, through the month of November, it’s been just films.
Today, wrapping the series of reviews, is the 2006 version… and as we’re now in December, let’s call this your early Christmas gift…
…and this filmed document of the 2009 production by Shakespeare’s Globe is the keeper of the bunch.
Filmed before a live audience in the replica of the Globe in London, you get to see the audience and their reaction, from the folks standing as the groundlings would have, to the folks sitting in the ring above. In a dialogue-less prologue, we see the crowning of Duke Frederick, and then the play opens. At the Globe, the acting style is far more declamatory than what we’re used to, but perfectly suited to at least this production (for example, Orlando’s opening speech to Adam is delivered as much to the audience as to the old man). The opening confrontation between the de Boys boys (with no mention of a middle brother Jaques, by the way) is both comic and brutal.
With no scenery on that bare stage, the entrances and exits overlap and are crisp, keeping the play moving along. And between this, the larger than real-life physicality and spoken comedy, and the frequent breaking of the fourth wall, there is a sense of joy pulsating through the production. The language is clear and precise and there is never any doubt that all of these actors know EXACTLY what their lines mean and what their characters are saying (not something I can say about all the characters in the other productions I’ve viewed).
The performances are top-notch. Naomi Frederick’s Rosalind is incredible, mercurial, and matched and balanced by Laura Rogers’ Celia. Jack Laskey makes a smart Orlando, and the Jaques presented by Tim McMullen is funny, as he is so over-the-top melancholic. But the highlight of all of this may be Dominic Rowan’s Touchstone, comic, sarcastic, knowing, and at times a little too modern, but that modernity makes a great connection with the audience.
There are too many great elements of this production to list, but I just want to say that the ending of this version, as directed by Thea Sharrock, is simply brilliant, allowing for the characters to be more intelligent and knowing that most productions allow.
This is the one you want to search out. It’s available only on DVD, or on some library video-on-demand streaming collections.
And this is–no surprise–the version of the play that I showed my actors as an optional “field trip” night to my digs before Thanksgiving…