As You Like It

Royal Shakespeare Company

The Lowry, Salford

September 25 - October 5, 2019; 3hr

As You Like It by the RSC at the Lowry in Salford. All pics: Topher McGrillis

Shakespeare as everyone likes it... fast and funny, and bringing its audience directly into the performance in ways you may never have imagined.

Kimberley Sykes’ production for the Royal Shakespeare Company keeps the house lights up for most of the play, illuminating the story in many new forms and introducing other flourishes of audience inclusion.

Indeed a handful of theatregoers will have got as close and personal with the performance as they might ever have dared imagine.

The end result is three hours of entrancing entertainment that even manages to give those drawn-out "wooing" scenes of the second act a new freshness.

The contrast between the dark and threatening setting of Duke Frederick’s royal court and the fresh air and fun of the Forest of Arden, is achieved by that simple use of the house lights. But then this is an As You Like It that reveals humour and invention in places even Shakespeare might never have considered.

Whether that’s in the nimble clowning of Rosalind (Lucy Phelps); the extended comedy routines of a contrary Touchstone (Sandy Grierson); or even the theatrical magic that turns the arrival of the god of marriage into a giant Green Man character, there’s almost too much to enjoy in this story of runaway love.

Touchstone’s own courtship routine, for example, becomes a comedy double-act incorporating the British Sign Language skills of Charlotte Arrowsmith as Audrey – just one of the ways this production, along with The Taming Of The Shrew and Measure For Measure, is being taken around the country, with a cast of 27, as the RSC seeks to share its artistry with a more diverse audience.

The three plays in the fortnight’s run here return to the region next year, with a week of performances at Blackpool Grand.

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c2019 TheatreReviewsNorth