When the National takes on a Shakespeare play, we all expect great things, and this season’s production of the comedy, “As You Like It”, with Polly Findlay at the helm, lives up to the high standards the company have set themselves.
The stage is set as a busy office, heavily populated with both actors and colours. The actors rush about on what looks like a dance floor from Saturday Night Fever made out of carpet. Then, when you think the scene couldn’t get any livelier, a wrestling match is put on for the office workers. A standard office occurrence. The crowd is worked up for the entrance of Charles, the Duke’s wrestler, who wears a full Mexican wrestling costume. Although this feels awkward at first, it is impossible for the audience not to be caught up in all the excitement by the end of the scene.
Then, as the characters enter the Forest of Arden, this life affirming setting is literally swept away before our eyes: the colourful carpet is pulled back and the desks are lifted up and left suspended over the stage.
We are left with a complete contrast: a dark stage void of any colour. The hanging office furniture suggesting that the Forest of Arden is a parallel world, suspended in time, which everyone escapes to and where everyone changes. However, the scene was not altogether void of life as nature’s sound effects are provided by actors on stage who howl like wolves or sporadically clap to create the crackling of a fire. This, although somewhat distracting at times, made it seem as if the set itself was alive, just like a Forest – never silent.
I came away with a new found admiration for the play and I would not hesitate in recommending it. Whether a seasoned Shakespearian, or a first timer, this production, with its dramatic staging and laugh out moments, truly does make for an enjoyable night at the theatre.