As You Like It at The Globe Theater
I am beginning to realize, these are becoming repetitive. Since the class doesn’t change radically, we continually retrace our steps. The trip down to the Globe Theater was via St. Paul’s and across the bridge over the Thames. We met class in the coffee shop and wandered over to the Tate Modern for a brief look-see. I found an item of interest in the gift shop and we headed over to queue for the 2 pm show of As You Like It. As in previous trips we try to get there early to get a good spot in the yard. Many of the students go to the front and I head to the back.
This year I found myself sitting next to a gentleman who struck up a conversation and we talked almost non-stop until the production and he decided to hang with me in the yard. He is an American that moved to London 30 years ago for a job and never left. He is now retired from the tech industry and enjoys a variety of activities including the theater. He has three children, on of whom is a theater director.
The production of As You Like It was quite extraordinary. As usual, it is performed with no cuts. This production went beyond color-blind casting. One could say it was blind cast without regard to color, gender or anything else. The new artistic director of the theater played a number of small roles throughout. The role of Rosalind was played quite deftly and beautifully by a man. The character, if you don’t know the play is a woman who disguises herself as a man when she is banished from the court to the Forest of Arden with her cousin Celia. Taking with them the court clown Touchstone, they venture into the unknown forest. To make a long story short, there is confusion and love and dalliances. In the end all is resolved and the various lovers are united in marriage by Hymen.
The production was delightful. We were standing in the yard of course and we saw the whole play uncut. Seeing the whole play, you realize it is a play about the messiness of love. Orlando and Rosalind’s initial infatuation becomes passionate and unyielding. While they met as man and woman, they are now man and man (provided you accept the actress playing Orlando as a man) and Rosalind (as Ganymede) is trying to show Orlando how to court his love: Rosalind. It’s just a little confusing (but not really). Beyond that example, you have Celia and Orsino (Orlando’s brother) and they “fall in love” mere moments before the end of the play. The shepardess, Phoebe loves Ganymede (Rosalind) and she is loved by Silvius. Oh, and I forgot to mention Touchstone the clown who falls in love with Audrey, the other shepardess. She’s obviously a man in drag. Messy. It all becomes so, well in this production, hysterical, and yet Shakespeare manages to unite all in the closing moments. Messy, now not messy. This production is the ultimate test of “willing suspension of disbelief”. For me, that is not a problem. I have always had the good fortune of believing whatever you put in front of me. This is one reason, I could never be a critic.