William SHAKESPEARE (1564–1616) As You Like It
Duke Frederick: Brendon Hughes
Orlando: Jack Laskey
Adam: Trevor Martin
Oliver: Jamie Parker
Rosalind: Naomi Frederick
Celia: Laura Rogers
Touchstone: Dominic Rowan
Le Beau: Gregory Gudgeon
Charles: Sean Kearns
Duke Senior: Philip Bird
Amiens: Peter Gale
Corin: Sean Kearns
Silvius: Michael Benz
Jaques: Tim McMullan
Audrey: Sophie Duval
William: Gregory Gudgeon
Sir Oliver Martext: Peter Gale
Phebe: Jade Williams
Hymen: Ewart James Walters
Directed by Thea Sharrock
Music composed by Stephen Warbeck
Choreographed by Fin Walker
rec. Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, London 6, 8 October 2009
Sound format: LPCM stereo; DTS surround sound
Picture format: 16:9
Picture standard: NTSC
Region code: 0
Subtitles: EN
OPUS ARTE OA 1032D [147:00]

All the world is indeed a stage in this ebullient production of the play which contains those famous lines. It was filmed during performances at Shakespeare’s Globe theatre, the reproduction of the original Globe in London. Using not only the stage, but also the audience and its space, this production of one of Shakespeare’s finest comedies goes beyond the normal boundaries that separate actors and spectators to provide an innovative version. There are no slow moments here, as a fine team of actors brings the forest of Arden to the bare stage of the Globe.

As You Like It is one of Shakespeare’s “women in drag” plays, where a woman (originally played by a male actor in Shakespeare’s time) pretends to be a man, then “comes out” at the end of the play. A simple love story which multiplies to, in the end, involve four couples, there is much splendid wordplay, and humorous situations abound.

In some ways, one must consider this to be a “historically informed performance”. With the limits of the replica of the original Globe Theatre, it’s all up to the actors to create the sets and ambience of the different locations. And this group of talented actors acquits itself well. With fine performers in the lead roles, and an excellent ensemble for the smaller roles, the play is brought to life with verve and wit. The comedic aspect is played up, leading it to border on the slapstick, unlike many other staid versions. It works well, giving the play a rhythm that, after the first few scenes, never lets up.

Jack Laskey’s Orlando shines, with his leading-man looks, and his restrained yet effective portrayal of the love-sick youth. The object of his affection, Rosalind, is played by Naomi Frederick, who overdoes it a bit, and whose face tends to scowl whether she tries to show anger or happiness. But they work well together, and Frederick is a convincing young man - as her character plays for much of the performance. Dominic Rowan is a wonderful Touchstone, with some anachronistic bits thrown in to keep his character on the edge, and Tim McMullan’s melancholic Jaques is near perfect.

Aside from the wonderful location and the use of audience space for many of the scenes, this DVD benefits from excellent camera work and direction. There are quite a few cameras, and one never tires with long shots from a single point. The editing is brisk but not overdone, and after a few minutes, one feels immersed in the intimacy of the theatre.

I’m looking forward to seeing other plays recorded in this theatre. The quality of the performance combined with the excellent camera work and editing make this a must-have for any fan of Shakespeare. And seeing the play performed in a theatre so close to Shakespeare’s own makes it all the more interesting.

Kirk McElhearn

A fine performance of one of Shakespeare’s best comedies, filmed in the replica of his own theatre… see Full Review