Specimens of English Dramatic Criticism, XVII-XX Centuries

By A. C. Ward | Go to book overview

'AS YOU LIKE IT' AT THE OLD VIC

November 1936

THE Old Vic's latest production of As You Like It is sombre in tone and pace. There is no indication in the text that it was October in Arden, or that they fleeted the time carelessly in a world of dusk and yellowing leaves. Yet here is no sunshine, and hardly a scene of normal daylight. There is a great deal of moonshine, and some total darkness relieved by the lanterns of the exiled courtiers. It is all too slow.

The costumes are more in keeping with the play, and it is not at all unhappy to begin on a note of Watteau with the ladies embarking for Arden as if it were Cythera, and Touchstone in very likeness of the famous Gilles in the Louvre. Many of the performances accord too surely with the direction which has wrongly ordered this comedy to march to its end rather than dance. Exceptions are Miss Eileen Peel's clear-cut Celia, the determinedly nimble Touchstone of Mr. Milton Rosmer, and the wondrous blank that Mr. Alec Guinness makes of the rustic William.

But the major exceptions have to be, and they blissfully are, the Rosalind and the Orlando. In the latter Mr. Michael Redgrave cuts a charming figure and solves the problem of the later scenes by appearing to think the ladies' make-believe rather silly. This Orlando would rather pine for Rosalind than woo her by proxy, and he quite surprisingly persuades us to realise that this was his author's intention. Shakespeare's intentions are seldom envisaged by actors.

-329-

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