As You Like It
Presented by the Young Vic at the Wyndham's Theatre, London, England. 21 June-17 September, 2005. Directed by David Lan. Designed by Richard Hudson. Music by Tim Sutton. Lighting by Tim Mitchell. Movement by Ben Wright. Sound by Paul Groothus. Fights by Alison de Burgh. Voice and Dialect by Neil Swain. With Dominic West (Orlando), David Killick (Adam, Corin), Andrew Woodall (Oliver), Andrew French (Charles, Jacques de Boys), Michael Howcroft (Le Beau), Sienna Miller (Celia), Helen McCrory (Rosalind), Sean Hughes (Touchstone), Nigel Richards (Duke Frederick, Hymen), Clive Rowe (Duke Senior), Sam Kenyon (Amiens), Reece Shearsmith (Jacques), Ben Turner (Silvius), Denise Gough (Phoebe), Rebecca Jenkins (Audrey), and Lisa-Lee Leslie (Accordion).
This "star-studded" production was sold principally on the names filling supporting roles, with British television comedians as Jacques and Touchstone, and minor Hollywood actress Sienna Miller as Celia. When Miller's personal problems hit the headlines, the production became a tabloid feeding frenzy, and there were television cameras outside on the night that I reviewed the production, the reporters apparently hoping to glean the latest gossip about Miller's emotional state. To her great credit, under difficult circumstances, Miller gave a fine performance.
This production was set in France of the 1940s, principally because Director and Designer felt that the music of that place and time best fitted the philosophical, romantic, and melancholic nature of the songs within the play. The music, written by Tim Sutton, played a major part in the production, repeatedly taking over scenes in the forest court of Duke Senior, in places where music or song are marked in the script, but also in passages more normally performed as speech. The music was performed onstage by a small band who played Duke Senior's banished courtiers and--with carefully positioned umbrella handles for antlers--occasionally doubled as woodland deer, goats, and sheep.
The production followed the traditional pattern marking the divide between a claustrophobic monochrome court and a more open and increasingly colorful forest. The play began in front of a black backdrop that covered the majority of the stage, and the early scenes were accompanied by the noise of a storm gathering. Later, as Orlando confronted his brother, and again as Rosalind and Celia conferred at a cafe table and then watched the wrestling, the front-cover of the backdrop was drawn back to show monochrome illustrations of the French urban setting. As the play moved into the forest the storm broke in earnest, and the banished Duke Senior and his courtiers were introduced in the midst of a rain storm, the Duke refusing to hide under his companions umbrellas and instead stripping off his coat and performing exercises in the downpour. The Duke, played by musical actor Clive Rowe, soon burst into song while finding "tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, / Sermons in stones, and good in everything." Once Rosalind and friends had entered the forest, the stage set opened still further, revealing the stage's bare black back wall with clearly artificial greenery peppering the stage floor. Rosalind and Celia's shepherd's cottage was represented by the bare wooden skeleton of a house, the room and bed inside fully visible. Only in the final scene was a truly colorful Arden revealed as the marriages took place against a lush glowing green forest backdrop, while Rosalind finally dressed in a bright colored frock for her marriage to Orlando.
The difference in settings between the courts, in town and in exile, was emphasized by the contrast between the two rulers. Duke Frederick was a grinning, white, psychopathically frenzied villain, who quickly boiled over into shouting violently at Orlando, and more sickeningly into physical threats against Rosalind and a violent assault on his supposedly beloved daughter. …