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As You Like It review at the Olivier, National Theatre – ‘radiates’

Rosalie Craig in As You lIke It at the Olivier, National Theatre. Photo: Tristram Kenton Rosalie Craig in As You lIke It at the Olivier, National Theatre. Photo: Tristram Kenton

Polly Findlay’s production of Shakespeare’s comedy hinges on a magic trick, or something akin to one. Together with designer Lizzie Clachan, she transforms the Olivier into the Forest of Arden in the most ingenious and unexpected of ways. This is Findlay’s third time directing in the Olivier and she has a real sense for the space. Her forest looks not unlike Cornelia Parker’s Cold Dark Matter, the landscape frozen in mid-explosion, deeply shadowed and icily lit by Jon Clark. It’s barren and eerie at first – it would not be a surprise to see Mulder and Scully flitting about in the background – but as love floods the forest, so too does the stage warm up.

The same is true of the production as a whole. The earlier scenes – generic, block-coloured, corporate – don’t make much of an impact and some of the performances are a bit mixed but Findlay has played an ace in the casting of Rosalie Craig and Patsy Ferran as her Rosalind and Celia, both are delightful and the bond between them is the strongest on stage by some way.

Ferran proves once again she’s a name to watch, bright-eyed and hugely endearing, while Craig has grace to spare. The production is atmospherically laced with song, Orlando Gough’s music contributing considerably to the mood of the piece, and there are some inspired comic sequences, the swamping of the stage with ‘sheep’ a real highlight. It’s a strong, solid production rather than a revelatory one, but it has a glow about it – it radiates.

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A charming, uplifting, and strikingly designed production of Shakespeare’s comedy