Naomi Frederick, Laura Rogers, Dominic Rowan, Tim McMullan, Jack Laskey
This production of As You Like It marks both the first time Thea Sharrock has directed for the Globe and the first time she has tackled Shakespeare.
She acquits herself in both arenas; this is a fresh, bright production, well suited to the space.
Sharrock clearly understands the magic the Globe is capable of generating the audience massed in the yard, the dimming evening light for she dots her stage with candles for the final group union and, at one point, has Orlando’s love poems flutter down from above, causing a little gasp of delight.
Hers is a traditional dress production with a superb central performance by Naomi Frederick.
As Rosalind, she is first seen in a rigid Elizabethan gown, but later returns as Ganymede with pixie cut hair, clad almost identically to Oralando, both dashing in their leathers. She seems far freer in this guise, though she still swoons like a corseted maiden when she is led to believe that Orlando has been mauled by a lioness.
Laura Roger’s Celia is not side-lined, as can often be the case, and her bond with her beloved cousin is made clear. Dominic Rowan, as Touchstone the clown, is truly amusing instead of just playing ‘funny’ in that forced, Shakespearean way that often seems to be the default for this role. Tim McMullan’s wonderfully slow-tongued, lugubrious Jacques is a cross between Dylan Moran’s Bernard Black and Alan Rickman in drawling Sheriff of Nottingham mode, simultaneously arch and weary.
Such are the strengths of the cast as a whole, that it is easy to overlook the places were the production sags. Jask Laskey struggles to convince as Orlando, what with his sudden slump from vanquisher of wrestlers to winsome pinner of verse to trees. He’s fine, just a bit ho-hum, and the chemistry between him and Rosalind doesn’t always come across, despite Frederick’s best efforts though there is a glimmer of it, when dressed as a man still, she draws him to her for a kiss.
The stage has been extended into the yard with twin gangways on either side, allowing the performers to make full use of the space. The pillars of the Globe are initially sheathed in black, but when the action shifts to the Forest of Arden, these sheaths are removed and the pillars are neatly transformed into trees. The wrestling sequence, all thudding bodies and wrenched limbs, feels genuinely physical and potentially painful to those involved.
It’s such small touches, and the attention that has clearly been paid to the little details, which make this production, the second in the Globe’s Young Hearts season following Dominic Dromgoole’s Romeo and Juliet, work so well.
While Sharrock’s use of the space is not quite as exciting as Lucy Bailey’s was in her excellent Titus Andronicus, Sharrock has clearly grasped what will and will not work in the Globe. She has taken into account the needs of the audience, both in the yard and in the balconies, and created something witty, brisk and bright – an enchanted and enchanting evening.
Read the musicOMH interview with Thea Sharrock.