Robert Tanitch reviews As You Like It at Southwark Playhouse, London SE1
Come, woo me, woo me, for I am now in a holiday humour and like enough to consent.
Director Derek Bond does not attempt to recreate the Forest of Arden on the thrust stage. He gets his magic with the aid of an amazing amount of confetti which falls throughout the production and even continues falling after the actors have finally left the stage so that the audience can also take a shower in it.
Touchstone, as with most Shakespeare’s clowns, is only as funny as the actor who plays him. Simon Lipkin, whose performance was one of the better things in the awful I Can’t Sing! at the London Palladium earlier in the year, ignores Shakespeare’s advice to the Players (“Let those that play your clowns speak no more than is set down for them”) and does his own thing.
He is funny, especially when he is engaging with a 19-year-old member of the audience or going to the trouble of creating an imaginary gate and then, to his exasperation, has an actress walk straight through it as if it were not there.
I have seen the sluttish Audrey played by Anthony Hopkins no less, in an all-male production, which was a sight to behold. But this is the first time I have seen Audrey played as a puppet-pig and her scenes with Touchstone turned into a ventriloquist act.
As I came out of the theatre a friend asked me what was the best As You Like It I had ever seen. The finest Rosalind I have seen, the finest in living memory, is Vanessa Redgrave. The love scenes with Orlando were so enchanting, so adorable, that the whole audience fell in love with her.