As You Like It

The Bridge Project is back in town. After last year’s success with The Winter’s Tale and The Cherry Orchard, the trans-Atlantic `special relationship’ continues with a double dose of Shakespeare.
The final leg of an extensive international tour, you might think such ambition would leave its mark in terms of jet lag.
Happily, there’s not too much sign of it in As You Like It though The Tempest is another matter. See separate review for that story.
As an experiment in cross-cultural exchanges, The Project certainly seems to be proving that American and Brits do speak the same language if not always with a similar style. The Brits tend to play it casual, the Americans statuesque. Generally, as in movies, the Brits get cast as the villains.
So it is in As You Like It, the sunlit `comedy’ with darker undertones. Sam Mendes modern-dress production emphasises its wintry, shadow side with some unusually violent authority figures. We even get a touch of neo-water-boarding from Michael Thomas’s usurping Duke Senior.
As Rosalind, Juliet Rylance – Mark Rylance’s daughter – makes an engaging heroine: bright, resolutely sparky and perkily mercurial as the androgynous Ganymede. But she has to work hard, matched as she is by Christian Camargo’s Orlando.
Given that Camargo doubles up as Ariel in The Tempest – perhaps one of the disadvantages of ensemble casting – his initially promising firey younger brother descends into a Hamlet-like melancholia from which he seems incapable and unwilling, Rosalind notwithstanding, to free himself.
Elsewhere, the production provides some delightfully fresh visual and interpretative touches. As a play about the giddiness and illusion of love, the production is bathed in a golden glow whilst not forgetting its contrasting harsher political and parallel realities. But the play’s inherent sexual and emotional ambivalences remain undeveloped as too its metaphysical backbone of self-knowledge.
It’s glory is Stephen Dillane’s Jaques. His delivery of `All the world’s a stage’ lends the term `world-weary’ a whole new depth even as his verse from the Under the Greenwood Tree rendered à la Bob Dylan brings the house down. Brilliance is the word, and he has it.