We had high hopes for this new take on As You Like It – featuring a host of LGBTQ+ talent and created by the same team behind Sound of the Underground at the Royal Court Theatre earlier this year, we were anticipating something fabulous, queer and unexpected. Some of the text has been tweaked to include contemporary lines added by Travis Alabanza; the costumes, which at first glance appear conventional, feature an array of modern accessories; the music utilises some recent pop songs. But none of it feels particularly radical – the end product is almost as traditional as any other play we’ve seen at The Globe.
None of this is to say it’s bad, of course, just far more conventional than we had expected. One of Shakespeare’s best-known comedies, it follows the story of Rosalind (Nina Bowers) and her cousin Celia (Macy-Jacob Seelochan); Rosalind has been banished from court, so the pair flee for safety and find themselves, in disguise, in the Forest of Ardern. This production focuses more on Rosalind and Celia’s story than other versions that we’ve seen, with some of the play’s narrative themes, including Rosalind’s love for Orlando (Isabel Adomakoh Young), relegated in importance.
It has plenty going for it – our protagonists have an easy chemistry, and it’s quite a playful and flirty production. The song choices are fun and help nudge proceedings along when the pace dips. But something doesn’t quite add up – this feels like a production that doesn’t entirely know what it wants to be. It feels like it wants to be more radical than it actually is, which makes the modern touches seem a little incongruous. Towards the show’s conclusion there’s a camp, queer, celebratory party scene with vogueing – but as fun as this addition may be, we felt that the play hadn’t really earned a finale like that, given how traditional most of the proceedings had been up to that point.
We were a bit on the fence after leaving The Globe theatre – this production of As You Like It certainly isn’t bad, but we kept wanting it to be a bit bolder, a bit more radical, more progressive, more exciting. It regularly felt a little muddled and confused – with a stronger sense of purpose this show could be a hit, but at the moment it feels like a nearly-finished product.
GAY TIMES gives As You Like It – 3/5
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