As You Like It at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, 31 January - 24 March 2007.

Lisa Hopkins
Sheffield Hallam University

Hopkins, Lisa. "Review of As You Like It at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, 31 January - 24 March 2007." Early Modern Literary Studies 12.3 (January, 2007) 16.1-4<URL:>.

Directed by Samuel West and designed by Katrina Lindsay. Lighting by Peter Mumford. Sound by Paul Arditti. Music by Howard Goodall. With Eve Best as Rosalind, Christopher Brandon as Oliver, Lisa Dillon as Celia, Richard Glaves as Le Beau / Silvius, Patrick Godfrey as Adam / Oliver Martext / Hymen, Natalie Grady as Audrey / Hisperia, Drew Mulligan as Amiens / Jacques de Boys, Harry Peacock as Touchstone, Christopher Ravenscroft as Duke Frederick / Duke Senior, Christopher Saul as Corin, Michael Taibi as Charles / William, Sam Troughton as Orlando, and Daniel Weyman as Jaques.

  1. In As You Like It, Shakespeare is remembering a dead man - Christopher Marlowe, the Passionate Shepherd whose verse Phoebe quotes and whose translations of Ovid, recently publicly burned, prompt Touchstone to his musings on honest Ovid among the Goths. In the final performance of Samuel West's production at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, this elegiac quality was sharply underlined when West himself walked on in a black suit at the beginning of the show to announce that he had come straight from the funeral of Stephen Pimlott, who directed him in Richard II and Hamlet, and that the performance was dedicated to Pimlott. At the end of the play, Eve Best's Rosalind led West back on stage to take a final bow on this, his last appearance as artistic director of Sheffield Theatres.

  2. The sense of loss engendered by Pimlott's funeral and West's visibly emotional departure were unique to the last night, but this was in general an unusually spare and wintry As You Like It. The colour scheme for the opening scene was black and white, but the tones were not, as so often, modulated when we arrived in the Forest of Arden; indeed throughout the first half the sole concession to the idea of the pastoral was that Corin and Silvius pulled a white, two-dimensional, and highly stylised tree up from the boards of the stage, and brought on a huge white balloon-shaped light, for all the world as if they were decorating a Habitat store for Christmas. This Scandinavian starkness was relieved by some unusual and inventive staging effects, such as the patch of rain which followed Jacques around and the fruit which from time to time dropped from the sky. Not till the second half was the stage enlivened by colour, though: during the interval the tree was bedecked with brightly-coloured ribbons with Orlando's verses written on them, and shortly afterwards Audrey entered pulling a life-size pull-along goat, fetchingly painted with hearts and flowers.

  3. The main thrust of the show's visual statement, however, came in the costumes, for it was not only Rosalind who cross-dressed. This idea was only mutely stated at first, but spoke with increasing volume as the show progressed. The 'chain' which Rosalind gave to Orlando was a double string of pearls, and Jacques' otherwise conventional suit was accessorised by high heels and a small feathered hat. After the interval, a whole crop of hats grew up out of the floor downstage on milliners' display stands, and characters experimented with putting them on themselves and each other, most notably when Phoebe signalled her final acceptance of Silvius by choosing a hat for him. It was in this final scene that the cross-dressing motif reached its height, as Orlando gave Rosalind his jacket and himself took her bridal veil, and couple after couple exchanged clothes and so, symbolically, made the journey into mutuality, while Jacques, who had been a crossover figure from the start, looked on.

  4. If the set was in many ways the star, that was not for the want of good performances. Eve Best was a strong Rosalind, and Lisa Dillon an excellent Celia. Sam Troughton neatly sidestepped the air of ineffectuality that too often afflicts Orlandos, and Christopher Ravenscroft did a fine job of doubling a deeply sinister, wheelchair-bound Duke Frederick, presiding over a police state in which the missing Rosalind and Celia were searched for with searchlights and loudhailers, and a benevolent Duke Senior. The pace could have been quicker - three and a quarter hours is too long for As You Like It, and West's direction does sometimes tend to portentousness - but this was a memorable and suggestive production.

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© 2007-, Matthew Steggle (Editor, EMLS).