The Forest of Arden is one of those moveable places which locate themselves as the viewer’s whimsy dictates. As You Like It is therefore an ideal show for one of Shakespeare’s Globe on Tour’s annual rural excursions. James Dacre’s production uses a very complete text, some of which goes astray on a breezy evening.
Hannah Clark places the action around and on top of a wooden box, its top reached by strategically-placed ladders. Costumes are sombre in colour and vaguely turn of the 19th into the 20th centuries, which suits the gender-shifting and the role-doubling very well. Philosopher Jacques is intriguingly here a woman’s role. Emma Pallant gives her a morally ambiguous slant - royal bedfellow or platonic councillor, free spirit chafing against convention or maverick creature with malicious intent? It sets up some interesting possibilities for the audience.
Celia can be a bit of a nonentity, but Beth Park makes her thoroughly sparky; you can see why she and her cousin cmplement each other as young women. Jo Herbert is a Rosalind who can laugh at herself, and take us with her for each twist of the plot. Her Orlando is Gunnar Cauthery, deliberately rough-edged in contrast with William Oxborrow’s Oliver. Here it is Oliver, in reformed mode, who first sees through the Rosalind-Ganymede masquerade.
Touchstone is a difficult character to bring to life in the 21st century, and Gregory Gudgeon doesn’t always succeed, though he tries very hard. At the opening night in Suffolk, some cast shifting was required by the illness of the actor who was to have doubled the roles of the usurping and banished dukes. One of the great merits of this sort of fit-up tour reconstruction, is that such mishaps simply don’t seem to matter in the slightest.