Philobiblon: <i>As You Like It</i> - a comedy and you will laugh ...

Thursday, March 09, 2006

As You Like It - a comedy and you will laugh ...

The experts agree that Shakespeare wrote As You Like It in 1599, about the same time as The Merry Wives of Windsor, Much Ado About Nothing and Twelfth Night, all of which have challenging, central parts for women, roles that would of course have been played by a boy actor. It seems likely a particularly talented child inspired these parts and even today, it is the performance of these that largely determines the success or failure of a production.

No need to worry - in the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of As You Like It, which has just opened at the revamped Novello Theatre in London (the old Strand), Lia Williams is entirely up to the challenge of Rosalind. In long-limbed awkward youthfulness she's believable enough to spend much of the play in boy's disguise without being ridiculous, yet her emotions are always close enough to the surface that this is far from mere masquerade.

Yet she's matched and balanced by Amanda Harris's expressive Celia -- played for laughs rather than deep feeling, but they are great laughs -- and Barnaby Kay's suitably leading man-sexy Orlando. I saw today's matinee production, and the teenage girls in the audience definitely approved of the latter.

But you didn't need to be seduced by youthful appeal to enjoy this show. To the purse-lipped elderly woman in front of me who complained I was laughing too loud (and she later accused the woman in front of her of wearing earrings that were "too sparkly") - yes, this is a comedy. You are meant to laugh, and it is something you can be sure to do in this production.READ MORE

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