As You Like It at Shakespeare's Globe

You don t go along to the Globe to watch plays passively and Lucy Bailey s production of As You Like It certainly gives you no opportunity to even consider such a thing. Bailey ensures that the spectators are wrapped up in the action from the outset.

The play kicks off with a ballad sung from the middle of the auditorium, and the wrestlers appear through the throng just like boxers arriving for the prize fight, with Charles even pausing to kiss women that appear in his path. And of course, Orlando must be cheered and the usurping Duke and Oliver must be booed.

Those who go along to see this production will be rewarded with a superb Rosalind from Anastasia Hille. When we first see her, she is a giggling young woman unable to hide her infatuation for Paul Hilton s Orlando. But when disguised as the young shepherd, Ganymede, she develops a swaggering air of confidence and her scenes with Orlando are fired with erotic tension. This is a Rosalind oozing sexuality, even revealing her bare bottom in her hurry to get to him; one almost feels sorry for Orlando, the poor sap doesn t stand a chance.

Tonia Chauvet is also good as Celia, acting as a more restrainng voice as Rosalind s passions burst to the surface, although she falls for Oliver with a similar rash impulsiveness. David Fielder also provides great entertainment as Touchstone, which is not, I regret to say, always the way with Shakespeare s clowns.

One gripe with the production is that John McEnery s Jacques is just not melancholic enough. He sounds almost jovial dispensing wisecracks and, when at the end he retires to the monastery to keep the usurping Duke company, one almost feels that it s just to crack a few jokes to him.

Small quibbles aside, though, this is a wonderful night out - top flight Shakespeare. Go along and catch one of the best Rosalinds you re likely to see - and certainly the sexiest.

Maxwell Cooter