Lyric Hammersmith, London W6
Opened 4 December, 1991

Here we get to see Shakespeare's great four-way gender-bend as written: Rosalind, impersonated by the swain Ganymede, who's a fictitious creation of the real Rosalind, who's played by a male actor. Donnellan's alert, open direction uses the all-male company to polymorphously perverse and liberating effect: every tug of affection, in any direction, is unloosed to be played explicitly (the behaviour of the melancholy Jaques, in particular, comes alive). The self-discovery in sylvan exile of Adrian Lester's diffident (the character, not the performance) Rosalind is often upstaged by Tom Hollander's pert, kittenish and wonderfully comic Celia.

This heightened festivity, rather than increasing a binary opposition with the play's shadows, frees a range of tonal gradations: an Orlando genuinely ill-used by his brother, a hinted network of court-in-exile relationships, the now-conventional tiredness of Touchstone's foolery (played by Peter Needham as a jobbing variety hack) and the vicissitudes of the central Rosalind-Celia bond are all invested with a welcome nimbleness. For this tenth birthday production Cheek By Jowl combine the restless inquisitiveness of childhood with a maturity of deliberation far beyond their collective years.

Written for City Limits magazine.

Copyright Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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