As You Like It

I didn’t want to go: Visiting the Globe to see The Tempest fifteen years ago I decided that its productions, doubtless in an attempt to recreate the baudy atmosphere of Elizabethan theatre, would always seek to play to the gallery, utilizing Shakespeare’s own populist nous to the full. They created a mob atmosphere, engendering savage laughter at Caliban’s tragic attempts to escape Propero’s tyranny.

As You Like It followed suit: actors spitting out their lines Shakespearen-actorishly; silly women swooning over the bare-chested hunk; cretinuous agricultural working-class characters all over t’shop; the maxing-up of songs, mimes and dances celebrating “the horn”; and the only black person in the building played the wench. Just As They Like It.

The exceptions though were Rosalind and the traveller Jacques (he who, according to Rosalind, has “great reason to be sad: I fear you have sold your own lands to see other men’s; then to have seen so much and have nothing, is to have rich eyes and poor hands…. I had rather have a fool to make me merry than experience to make me sad, and travel for it too.”) James Garnon, as Jacques, instantly raised the bar. He spoke his lines so freshly, played the wit, and was extremely funny at it. And although the wit faded inexplicably into the melancholic, soon after Michelle Terry took over with Rosalind-as-Ganymede, that is, played a man, and so Rosalind became supremely admirable and authoritative, rather than giddy and annoying.

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