THE sight that greets the audience at the start of the National Theatre’s production of As You Like It is more high tech office than forest.
The Olivier stage sees Duke Frederick’s court full of desks and chairs with a token bonsai tree on each desk. But once Rosalind, Celia and Orlando leave the Duke’s court having been banished, it transforms in the most spectacular way.
In fact Lizzie Clachen’s set is the star of the show. The office furniture suddenly transforms itself into the trees of the Forest of Arden and hang over the stage – it’s total genius.
The forest is thus dark and gloomy save for a few shards of light that come through the desks. It also features the sounds of wild animals and birds thanks to a choir who are positioned in and around the trees making it a much more eerie and strange place.
But as the people go further into it and love begins to blossom, so too does the light begin to shine more brightly and more colour is introduced. It’s quite brilliant.
Director Polly Findlay has done a lovely job with the play too – often described as Shakespeare’s weirdest comedy. Indeed there is much to love and admire in her spirited production.
It’s punchy, full of little tricks that add to the colour of the piece – one of the best moments was when some of the cast came in on all fours dressed in Arran sweaters and baa-ing as sheep. One even eats one of Orlando’s discarded and badly written love notes.
The cast is top notch too. Rosalie Craig is a marvellous Rosalind and Patsy Ferran is delightful as her cousin Celia, in fact the bond between them is really strong.
There is also good support from Joe Bannister as Orlando and Mark Benton as Touchstone who help make this a really magical production.
As You Like It is on at the National Theatre, South Bank until Saturday, March 5. Tickets from £15. Visit www.nationaltheatre.org.uk or call the box office on 020 7452 3000.