Framing something – placing it in a setting – is usually intended to enhance the object. Transport's new international tour of a co-production with the New Wolsey Theatre of As You Like It seeks to add significance to the comedy by contextualising it through a group of stranded migrants desperately trying to reach England from Calais.
Director Douglas Rintoul's concept is perfectly legitimate, though the fusion seems to be an uneasy one. Fisayo Akinade sets the scene as the young man trying to perfect his English by repeating the text of the play; he also plays Adam, love-lorn Silvius and a very funny William.
Michael Fox's Orlando is all fire banked up with fury as his mistreatment by his older brother Oliver (Alton Letto) grows. Rintoul has devised some unusual role-doubling. Anna Elijasz is a Celia far from being a secondary heroine and the non-nonsense pigtailed peasant-girl Audrey.
Jaques' gentle philosophising is combined by Mark Jax with the harsh insecurity of the usurping Duke Frederick. George Lasha seems more comfortable as wrestler Charles than as the banished senior duke, though he stamps his mark on shepherd Corin.
Elisabet Johannesdottir's Rosalind is, frankly, disappointing. For me, her characterisation conveyed no sense of warmth or that attractiveness which wins Orlando's heart at their first meeting and makes Celia be prepared to give up everything to support her.
Colin Michael Carmichael plays a pleasantly cynical Touchstone and also Amiens, with some hilarious miming to the boy soprano tones of a transistor radio. This is echoed in his last-scene appearance as Hymen.
The basic set shows us a shabby room, furnished only with thin mattresses. Hayley Grindle's design has some good touches – the concertina effect of Orlando's versifying in the forest among them. Lighting is by Joshua Carr and the vivid sound design by Helen Atkinson.
Shakespeare's text is given in a fairly complete version, and the actors appear to understand what they're saying. But the extra prologue and epilogue, for me at any rate, fail to add validity.