We've been working with Hay Festival young writers' club Scribblers who came to review As You Like It.
Made up of 12–17-year-olds, the group meets weekly to discuss news and books and create The Scribblers, a termly magazine published online and in print.
Alice Venables, age 17
This was the first performance at the RSC that I have seen and I was impressed! As You Like It differs from Shakespeare's usual style of tragedy. Starting off quite dark, the plot twisted into a light-hearted comedy. The actors really brought the story to life and I found it a very enjoyable experience. I was captivated by the way the actors created different atmospheres on stage through movement, gesture and facial expression.
Pippa Nixon (Rosalind) used physical theatre in her transformation to Ganymede. The way she rolled back her shoulders, bent her knees and pushed her hands in her pockets gave her a masculine stance. Natalie Klamar (Phoebe) displayed her vocal talents, adopting a rural accent; this gave depth to the character. Klamar also used a range of engaging facial expressions to portray her emotions of love towards Ganymede and distaste towards Silvius.
I also liked the teamwork. I found the scene near the start when Rosalind and Celia spoke and the rest of the cast performed a simple stylized routine in unison behind the pair, extremely effective. The stylized routine reflected the uniformity of the court. One of my favourite scenes was at the end, when Rosalind and Celia walked in from up stage in simple white dresses. The stage was elaborately decorated with brightly-coloured bunting and ribbons. The actors all had upright stances with enthusiastic, happy facial expressions. The tones used by the actors were joyous and the volume was loud and clear. The overall atmosphere was joyful and I left the theatre feeling uplifted and happy.
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David Jones, age 18
Maria Aberg's zesty, funny, sexy and entrancing interpretation of Shakespeare's classic comedy makes for magical entertainment. An inspiring performance from Pippa Nixon as Rosalind, and Alex Waldmann's portrayal of Orlando, really made the spark jump the gap and set the chemistry fizzing.
The RSC's fusion of the classical elements of Shakespeare's work with a modern, dark and entrancing undercurrent allowed the production to accumulate real gravity. This sinister darkened tide which rises in the Duke's courts reaches its apogee during the bone-crunching wrestling battle where a combination of entrancing audio, lighting and innovative use of the stage enraptured the audience and provided the perfect foundation on which the rest of the play's plot dances forward to Arden.
Speaking of Arden, the creative team's innovative transposition of nature to the stage created a breathtakingly free space in which the love between characters blossoms. Indeed the final dance of the play had a certain 'Glastonburyesque' feel to it.
Nicholas Tennant's soul-lifting performance of Touchstone had every opportunity to go disastrously wrong, given the classic white face and bulbous red nose. However, his perfect timing, cool persona and impromptu discussion of wives with a member of the audience, made this character a true comedian amongst fervid lovers.
Only upon walking out into a cool evening in Stratford after a night's entertainment, can one really appreciate the perfectly orchestrated passage of the play from the sinister and formal courts of the thuggish Duke to the summery surrounds of the forest of Arden. Indeed, the incorporation of modern, abstract elements presented a risk of the performance losing touch with the play's more original elements – however, under the inspired direction of Maria Aberg, the key elements of Shakespeare's work have been reborn with a surprising relevance for 21st century life.
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Rowan Pritchard, age 15
My first thought when I entered the theatre was how the stage was shaped, with a circular shape for upstage, and a catwalk-like stage going further downstage, with two smaller long stages going diagonally through the audience. We were in the second row back, which meant we got a real slice of the action, and this would be completely different wherever you sat. During the play I looked at the audience opposite, and thought how their perspective was so different to ours.
Before all the audience were even seated, action was going on on the stage. Orlando (Alex Waldmann), and another actor who played Orlando's older companion, were sweeping leaves from the moment we entered the auditorium, exchanging small talk such as 'did you sleep well last night?' in muttered tones, which made you wonder whether they were speaking in their characters or as the actors themselves.
The range of characters went from sneaky to suspicious, to funny to rude. The actors had been picked perfectly for their roles. Chris Jared, who played 'melancholy' Jaques De Boys, was the perfect match; the consistency of his performance was brilliant, with his sneaky tone and posture, with almost rat-like movements. His voice sounded slippery, always willing Orlando for another one of his sad, desperate songs about Rosalind.
The comedy direction was genius, and made the whole performance lighter. The scene where Celia mocks Orlando's songs is genius; she goes completely over the top and bursts into dramatic song. The whole audience was completely engaged from start to finish.
The costumes and make-up were brilliant and appropriate towards the different scenes and characters. In the court, a serious and professional place for dukes and duchesses, everything was simple in black and white, as were all the costumes and the make-up. In the lighter, freer environment of the countryside, the costumes were less simple, with more raggedy jackets, and bright colours.
All in all, I felt honoured in seeing my first Shakespeare performance. It gave a brilliant representation of what a Shakespeare performance should be like. I would be delighted to watch it again.
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Tom Scruby, age 18
This was my first experience of a live Shakespeare performance. I went into it expecting to find myself lost in archaic speech and jokes that were only considered funny 500 years ago. I always considered Shakespeare to be utterly impenetrable to anyone lacking an English degree, so the most outstanding feature of the performance, to me, was how accessible it was. Despite using very few costumes, scenery or props, the enthusiasm of the cast made the meanings of their lines clear even when the lines themselves did the opposite.
The comedy was also extremely successful, from original Shakespearean lines that remained surprisingly relevant for modern audiences, perhaps as a testament to Shakespeare's skill, to an almost pantomime-like scene where Touchstone converses with members of the audience, discussing marriage and the perils therein.
Very few props or costumes were used in the production, and those that were, were highly modernised. Duke Senior and his court in the forest of Arden wear colourful, in some cases almost hippy-ish clothing and there is an entire scene where characters pass each other cans of beer from a fridge. This is another part of what makes the play feel so accessible, as it creates a very relaxed, casual impression that works against the classic rigid expectations many people have of Shakespeare.
What truly made the play an enjoyable experience, though, was the acting. It's difficult to discuss the strongest performances when, from John Stahl's terrifying rage as Duke Frederick, to the rapidly shifting moods and affections of Natalie Klamar's Phoebe, so many of the performances were exemplary.
Whether you have never watched a Shakespearean play before, or are a regular attendee, I would thoroughly recommend this play.
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