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Review Round-up: Critics fall for RSC's As You Like It?

By • West End

The Royal Shakespeare Company’s new production of As You Like It opened at Stratford’s Royal Shakespeare Theatre last week (24 April 2013).

Featuring music from the English folk musician Laura Marling, and directed by Maria Aberg, the play follows Rosalind and Orlando, who are banished by the French court and flee to the Forest of Arden; finding romance, mischief and anarchy.

As You Like It runs in rep until 28 September 2013. 

Simon Tavener
Whatsonstage.com
★★★★

I don't count this production a complete success… the pacing of the first half really does need attention… and an occasional over-reliance on physical comedy at the expense of the language… Laura Marling's modern folk music is used to great effect… Aberg is working with the two most exciting actors in the company today… But Nixon is, undoubtedly, the star of the show - and quite rightly too…  Joanna Horton makes more of Celia than I thought possible… and I could listen to Cliff Burnett (Duke Senior) for hours - he has one of those voices that just oozes class and charm… After an uncertain start, Aberg's As You Like It ends in a riot of romance, rain and real fun.

Michael Billington
Guardian
★★★

Maria Aberg's new production of As You Like It is a joyous, big-hearted affair… Its chief delight is Pippa Nixon, who, for me, joins Vanessa Redgrave, Adrian Lester and the late Susan Fleetwood in the select pantheon of memorable Rosalinds... It is a captivating, wittily androgynous performance that ushers Nixon to the threshold of stardom… There is also an unusually funny Touchstone from Nicholas Tennant… and a beguiling Celia from Joanna Horton… Although there's some stirring music by Laura Marling, I am not wholly persuaded by Aberg's idea… there is quite a lot of coarse acting… You forgive these flaws, though, because of the moments of pure ecstasy: when Nixon and Waldmann finally leap into each other's arms, they seem to be gripped by what Shakespeare calls "the very wrath of love".

Paul Taylor
Independent
★★★★

… Maria Aberg's production establishes itself as the funniest, most stirringly joyous - and truly ensemble – take on this lovely but tricky comedy since the all-male Cheek By Jowl version... Pippa Nixon and Alex Waldmann, who are absolutely glorious… There's a terrific, headlong generosity of spirit here to the gender-bending and to the disciplined anarchy… folk singer-song writer Laura Marling has composed a score that hauntingly adds to and embellishes the songs in the play… Aided by a fantastic Grock-meets-Grosz Touchstone from the unfailingly superb Nicolas Tennant and Oliver Ryan's peculiar but very funny take on Jaques as a Welsh obsessive… Warmly  recommended. 

Libby Purves
The Times

★★★★

… Pippa Nixon, with her tall, eccentric grace, is immediately a striking Rosalind… David Fielder makes that small part centrally memorable and moving… Laura Marling’s lovely folkish music takes fine liberties with Shakespeare’s lyrics... Nixon in drag is a good comedienne and magnetically, ambiguously attractive…  Oliver Ryan’s Jacques is unnecessarily creepy and overfond of silly walks … But Touchstone and Audrey are a hoot... It all ends in a stomping molly-dance of such vigour that one fears for the floorboards. This time Aberg holds the right kind of party.

Fiona Mountford
Evening Standard
★★★★★

… Maria Aberg’s joyously rich and sensitive production… Nixon and Alex Waldmann as Orlando make a sparkling leading pair, convincingly lovestruck at first sight. There’s pleasing complexity about the depth of sexual charge that Orlando feels for the “male” Ganymede… Horton provides sensitive support in the often thankless role of Celia… Even Touchstone, the tedious clown, is entertaining thanks to Nicolas Tennant, who engages in some playful audience interaction… It’s wonderful to watch the RSC find the right groove and cruise so confidently in it. Fans of the company may very well want to join in the festivities that conclude the beautiful barefoot wedding and celebrate along with the newlyweds.

Charles Spencer
Daily Telegraph
★★★★

...the delightful music has been composed by the young folk wunderkind Laura Marling... It is fresh, funny, sexy, and, when it matters, deeply touching... Pippa Nixon now gives one of the most entrancing Rosalinds I have ever seen... there is real chemistry between Nixon and Waldmann... The usurping Duke is played with psychotic ferocity by a sinister, thuggish John Stahl... Among the supporting performances, Joanna Horton proves deeply touching as Celia, pining for a love of her own, while Nicolas Tennant miraculously succeeds in making Touchstone, by some distance the most tedious clown in Shakespeare, genuinely funny, even while sporting whiteface (aagh!) and a false red nose (aagh again!). In this Forest of Arden, it seems, wonders will never cease.


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