Review: The Transport Theatre Company’s Adaptation of ‘As you like it’ at The Playhouse

Harlow Playhouse / Mon 21st Oct 2013 pm31 03:51pm

As You Like It Image-65

By Jo O’Reilly

IT can be hard to make a well-known play fresh, this is a particular problem with Shakespeare. How do you keep the integrity of the text yet bring it up to date? Whilst Shakespeare’s words are exceedingly good at being relevant today, how to you help the rest of the performance bridge that gap? Somehow that is exactly what the transport theatre have done with the comedy ‘As You Like it’.

By setting the play in a migrant camp in Calais, they have succeeded in making it topical as well. For most of us this is what our modern understanding of exile conjures. Sleeping bags, tracksuit bottoms and sitting around a fire waiting.

With such bleak surroundings, I find myself glad they haven’t fallen into the trap of making the comedic moments sitcom-esque to lighten the mood. Sticking instead with the wit, dark humour and slapstick more suited to its theme.

In choosing to recruit actors from different backgrounds, the mesh of accents turns the story into a celebration of multiculturalism and difference, which feels neither twee nor forced. In particular the scene with the shepherd and the fool, who marvel and mock the perceived strangeness of each others lives is a template for many a cross cultural conversation heard today.

The pace of the play finds time to portray the continued waiting and travelling of a migrant’s life, whilst the stalled love affair between the afflicted Orlando and his tomboy love Rosalind is as frustrating as the original text intended.

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