THERE was a dark side to this latest production of one of the Bard’s lesser known comedies.
Cross-dressing, foolish wisdom and other Shakespearian staples unfold in the Forest of Arden. But the stage is sparse and the laughs are underplayed during the first few scenes.
To begin with the courtiers are dressed in funeral black and the second part opens with a shepherd skinning a rabbit. No prop bunny here, this is the real thing.
But as events unfold and the characters take refuge in the woods, the laughter wins outs. The biggest guffaws must go to the ruff-wearing Touchstone (Richard Katz) and melancholic Jaques (Forbes Masson).
With no fairies, spirits or witches in this particular tale, there isn’t as much scope for spectacle as in some of the other comedies.
But the visual flourishes which do appear were excellent. The duke’s entourage makes a fairly dramatic entrance and one of our heroes is stalked through a dream by a band of chanting hunters.
The best surprise of all is when lovesick Orlando (Jonjo O’Neill) vows to carve romantic messages into every tree in the forest. When the audience returns from the interval they find that the whole theatre has been plastered with love poems.
Less effective was the transition from Elizabethan finery to more modern clobber. This happens gradually throughout the day and while it was cleverly done, it did distract me somewhat. There’s nothing wrong with updating classics, but I’d prefer for a show to be one thing or another.