A stage, no matter how small, has the potential to transform into the most extravagant of settings: to a luscious forest, a stifling French court, or a noblewoman’s bedchamber – an excellent cast and prime directing can transform any space into one of magic and splendour. In the—almost claustrophobic—Anatomy Theatre, in the King’s building, the King’s Shakespeare Company did just that. Co-directed by Molly Gearen and Eliza Campbell, the production of As You Like It was one of the best student productions I have seen at King’s. The production was fabulously joyful, hilarious and infused with sizzling energy. Every performance was well-rehearsed and full of merriment; the white-washed walls indeed truly became the luscious Forest of Arden.
A pastoral comedy, first performed in 1603, As You Like It, originally had a mixed reception; it was considered to lack the high artistry of The Tempest, Julius Caeser and Twelfth Night, but was more of a crowd-pleaser, full of easy laughs and a simplistic plot. However, in the King’s production, the script compression emphasised and celebrated its primary theme: the many wonderful ways that love can manifest.
Rosanna Adams’s and Dom Rawson’s chemistry was undeniable. Rawson’s Orlando alternated between the casually suave aristocrat to the physically explosive lovesick fool – he captured the velocity and capriciousness of love, physically unable to contain it within his body. Adams’s Rosalind was calm, collected, yet her voice was steely and full of confidence. It is her knowledge in the ways of love that drives the play forwards; her surety of what she wants and how to get it is a striking and excellent embodiment of female empowerment. Together, they are the two pillars of the production – bouncing off each other, their rhythm is infectious, and at the finale, the audience cannot help but think these two were made for each other. A special mention must go to Sam Kan as Touchstone – clown and confidante, I was suppressing giggles every moment he was on stage, his delivery always tinged with a blithe cheekiness. Holly Evans, as Phoebe, and Hart Fargo, as Silvius, were also marvellously melodramatic.
If I had to nit-pick, I would say that the contrast between the set as a French court and the Forest of Arden was not significant enough. The Forest was depicted beautifully with long trawling ivy vines and blinking lights, which could be seen as fireflies or twinkling stars; Orlando’s letters cascade down from treetops as if grown from nature itself. Yet there was nothing courtly about the indoor scene: the cloths overhanging the balcony were more reminiscent of domesticity than nobility. The fairy lights, though wonderfully atmospheric, were also hung slightly too low so—especially during the end celebration—the cast had to duck their heads to avoid entanglement. However, these were minimal issues, which I am sure would be rectified in future performances.
All in all, it was the strong cast and little touches that made As You Like It an excellent adaptation of a Shakespeare classic. Mary Beidler Gearen’s costumes really gave character, and situated the text in the period. As well as the stunning garments, Bertie Ensor-Clinch's musical interludes made the Anatomy Theatre a peaceful and mystical space. It is this dramatic thoughtfulness which made the performance transcend the small space and make it a unique pleasure to view.
Edited by Evangeline Stanford, Digital Editor