The thing about Shakespeare is that it has stood the test of time for a reason. It’s entertaining, accessible and thoughtful. As You Like It is a Shakespearean favourite; it’s funny, entertaining, and accessible, with just enough plot-twists and tension to keep a first-time viewer guessing. For a crowd-pleaser, it should be an easy-win for summer Shakespeare in the park.
When you have a script that already has the elements necessary for brilliant farce, you don’t really need to add anything to it except honest performance, thoughtful directing and good staging. This production, with its bizarre costuming (a luridly colourful mix of circus, brothel, and gypsy caravan), over-the-top direction, and superficial performance was tedious, at best.
On top of this, was a strange assortment of sing-along songs that created interludes more suited to four men in colourful skivvies. Having the characters play charades as they recited their lines, in order to illustrate text that audiences have been enjoying for centuries, stole any opportunity the performers had to engage with each other and so engage the audience.
This is a particular shame, as some of the performers were obviously battling their direction in a quest to interact with each other. There were some genuinely lovely moments, but they were few and far between.
As You Like It
Southern Cross Lawn – Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne
Season continues to 14 March 2015
For more information, visit: www.shakespeareaustralia.com.au for details.
Image: Cast of As You Like It – photo by Matt Deller
Review: Jennifer Piper