Duke Senior has been banished to the Forest by his brother who has usurped the throne, whilst his sons, Oliver and Orlando, squabble over fortune and foothold in their father’s crumbling seat. Through wrestling matches, meandering romance, and much clowning, the full set (would-be, should-be and could-be lovers; clowns; busty wenches et al.) all find themselves part of a wholesale abandonment to Arden; a place in which they will all eventually work out their differences.
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on London’s Southbank hitches up its breeches for one of the Bard’s most famous comedies - As You Like It. The Forest of Arden - ‘’under the greenwood tree’’ - is our setting for a pastoral comedy of doubling, troubling, befuddling romance and melancholy clowning; all pulled off with panache and by this boundlessly energetic cast. A play famous for its use of doubling, the cast, only eight strong, double up with staggering efficiency. Get your head round this one - queer theorists beware - there is a boy, playing a woman, disguised as a man (or at least there would have been in Shakespeare’s day, when no women were allowed on stage.) The doubling only serves to provide a tottering double serving of the comedy, jacking up the pace, and showing off the considerable collective talent at work at the Globe this season.
This cast brought Shakespeare’s theatre - particularly his comedy - back to the way it should have been. As You Like It was simply constructed, energetic, and a jolly hoof of a show. One that didn’t shy away from volume, bawd or the downright ridiculous, as of course, when you had one thousand ‘’penny stinkers’’ crammed into the pit (the floor level where groups would stand, enjoying a good beer, bunch of nuts, an orange, and often, a good poo) it would have been: voluminous, attention-grabbing, and energised.
Now, you may think you are familiar with Shakespeare. Perhaps you’ve plodded your weary way through Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, or Hamlet in the classroom. Perhaps you’ve swooned over Leo DiCaprio’s Romeo in Baz Luhrman’s spectacular film version. Well, forget all that. Whether you’re familiar with him or not, get yourself down to the Globe to see Shakespeare at his gut-busting best - Shakespeare’s comedy as it should be.
As You Like It is touring the UK and Europe until 10th September