Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Review: As You Like It at the Southwark Playhouse

As You Like It
Southwark Playhouse
Reviewed on Saturday 20th September 2014

I'm not as familiar with As You Like It as I am with some of Shakespeare's other work. The comedy begins with a more serious tone with Rosalind fleeing from her uncle with her cousin Celia, but before you know it the action moves to the woods with girls dressed as boys, mistaken identity and people falling in love with sheep. As You Like It is certainly one of Shakespeare's silliest plays; it is good fun, providing some superbly comical moments. 

When thinking about Derek Bond's production the main word which continuously flashes into my brain is 'confetti'. Quite simply I have never seen a confetti machine work so hard in my life - it is used constantly throughout the show representing the different seasons. Sometimes less can be more.

At the start of the show the performance space is bare, but throughout the piece the atmosphere grows which is a powerful touch. As the audience exited the theatre after the performance, many joked and laughed together whilst sweeping the confetti into piles before throwing it into the air which was quite something.

Anyway... back to the play which has some wonderful moments. The piece is performed in a way which appeals to first time Shakespeare theatregoers. Sometimes the truth and authenticity is lost; however, easy laughs are gained which is no bad thing. This production is certainly ideal for students and school groups, although the first act does drag at times. Emma Bailey's design is stunning whilst Jude Obermüller's music is beautiful, the musical sections provide moments of brilliance.

Particularly strong performances come from Steven Crossley, Sally Scott and Kaisa Hammarlund whilst Simon Lipkin makes quite an impression as Touchstone. Lipkin has fun with the role, coming into his element during the second half with the help of a puppet. He also keeps several audience members on their toes (be warned when deciding to sit in the front row). Whether he's playing a Rockstar or a Shakespearean role, Lipkin has proved he has the remarkable ability to win any audience over.

It's a shame that As You Like It isn't consistent. When at its best it is blissful, whilst other moments drag which led to me losing interest. I hugely enjoyed seeing As You Like It for the first time; every now and again it is joyous to see something which doesn't take itself too seriously. It may be a little bit silly, but As You Like It is performed by a high quality company in one of London's most respected off-West End theatres. 

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

As You Like It runs at the Southwark Playhouse until Saturday 18th September 2014. Please visit www.southwarkplayhouse.co.uk for further information and tickets.

Photo Credit: Robert Workman

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