Indulging Shakespeare, Director and Actress Let His Drama Peter Out
Sir Peter Hall has given As You Like It a new twist: It's now the story of a famous director who loves both his daughter and Shakespeare not wisely but too well. This production by the Theatre Royal Bath shows no traces of directorial self-indulgence: The only two people indulged are the author and his Rosalind (Rebecca Hall, Sir Peter's daughter), both of whom are allowed to wallow in their worst habits at an excruciatingly leisurely pace. The clarity with which Sir Peter lays out the scenes, letting As You Like It tell its own story, is splendid; but with the splendor comes a flatness of tone and a stiltedness of action that render each scene dramatically shapeless, with dead stops whenever there's a famous passage to be intoned.
If you don't mind the tempo, slow isn't the worst way to take As You Like It. Designer John Gunter's bosky glen has the right easygoing charm, even in the icy winter scenes, as do Mark Sands's folksy song settings. Many of the cast are capable; you wonder particularly how the Orlando (Dan Stevens), Jacques (Philip Voss) and Celia (Rebecca Callard) might fare if the director viewed the play's people more as individuals. They get little chance, unhappily, against daughter Hall's sparkless, drawling, energy-draining Rosalind, each of whose longer speeches spirals downward to nowhere. The ritualized pairings she oversees at the end have rarely seemed more formulaic, almost proving Bernard Shaw's theory that Shakespeare meant the title to imply, "Not as I like it."
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