As one of Shakespeare’s most beloved comedies, As You Like It is a typical example of a pastoral story, concerning three parties of exile who individually flee to the sanctuary of the English woodlands. This lighthearted comedy is fully equipped with some of the Bard’s classic traits: cross-dressing, the division of lovers and a witty fool. The plot is dominated by the relationship between Rosalind - arguably Shakespeare's most memorable and perhaps most comedic heroine - and Orlando. Rosalind, the daughter of an exiled Duke, remains at court to provide company for her cousin Celia. Once she is banished herself, Rosalind - now disguised as a man called Ganymede - and Celia journey into the forest accompanied by the fool, Touchstone. In the forest of Arden, Orlando, who is also banished, meets Ganymede. The pastoral mode of this play enables Shakespeare to explore the simplicity and considerate life found in the forest, in comparison to the complexity and coarse life in court. It also marks a change in Shakespeare’s conventional writing style with conversational prose dominating, making it one of his easiest plays for a modern day audience to understand. That being said, at points the actors seemed to struggle getting to grips with the prose and lost some of the comic fluency, especially in the early expository scenes.
Jamie Lynch as Orlando and Alex Staniforth as Oliver get off to an uneasy start as the quarreling brothers, appearing to struggle at first with some dictation and intonation problems before settling into their roles a little more comfortably. With many characters doubling up, Bill Addison displays great versatility with his contrasting performances of the menacing Charles and the obtuse shepherd Silvius. However, Bronagh Finlay’s portrayal of Rosalind was uncharacteristically flat for one of Shakespeare’s most celebrated heroines. She failed to give a passionate and convincing performance and consistently lacked any true depth in the intricate characterization of both Rosalind and Ganymede. Catriona Ruth Paterson’s Celia added to the dynamics of this production, despite a few moments where her accent slipped, with some witty lines and entertaining facial expressions as can be said for Vanashree Thapliyal’s Phebe who executed her lines with perfect comic timing.
Despite significantly reducing the original text, it does not hinder the overall outcome of the adaptation, which retains many prominent scenes, including the Seven Ages of Man monologue. However, there does not seem to be enough time for a full character development and the rushed ending leaves us with an unsatisfactory conclusion, with some loose ends still in need of tightening up. Unfortunately, Arkle Theatre Company fails to grasp the complexity and humour of the text, which consequently leads to a somewhat tedious, amateur performance.