AS YOU LIKE IT
Illyria in Marks Hall Gardens
On this "hot midsummer night", the five actors of Illyria set up their red pageant stage in the leafy grounds of Marks Hall Estate for Shakespeare's ever-popular pastoral comedy..
Just five for the score or more characters of As You Like It ? They certainly "prove busy actors" – We see Celia as Old Adam before we meet her for real; her Rosalind as an Igor-esque Dennis. There's much fun to be had with this quick-change mayhem, and with some of the comedy ideas that enliven this production – the sheep, the shearing and the "surgery". But it's slow to get started, and the characters struggle to establish themselves. The luvvie Jaques – Jakes in this text – was an exception [though his big speech failed to impress]; so was the pantomime Audrey, who dashed through the audience at the end of the interval in search of chocolate brownies.
The latter part of the play was much livelier, with a wailing love quartet, plenty of slapstick and the "springtime" Lover and His Lass.
But this was a three hour production – too long for the open air – and we had to wait 45 minutes before we had any music, and another 2 hours before the fiddle made its appearance. 50 minutes before anyone's buskins touched the grass. And Orlando's poems never went anywhere near any of the real live trees surrounding the action.
The masque, with Hymen perched high above the happy couples, worked well, and the raucous finale sent us all home happy.
This was my second al fresco As You Like It this month, and again the weather was perfect. Unaccountably I missed The Lord Chamberlain's Men at Hylands in the rain ...