While not succumbing to the brutal reductiveness of David Thacker's current Stratford production, James Robert Carson isn't above the odd blatant gesture – in particular, a huge neon quotation from Virgil glowing purply above the Forest of Arden. Elsewhere, the shoots of a good production have not quite come to maturity. Jemma Redgrave is an adequate if unspectacular Rosalind, Philip Franks a fine, preoccupied Jaques whose final retirement to hermitry is as much to stave off clinical depression as to seek enlightenment, and Buddug Morgan a charming Welsh Phebe.
Kathy Strachan's totally un-sylvan crumbling frieze of a set, though, comments upon the action without locating it, in the implicit assumption that everyone knows the play already. Carson's direction, similarly, assumes his own knowledge rather than showing any deal of thought about the text: major pointers are ignored, actors sometimes don't listen to their own delivery and are occasionally quite bereft of characterisation. The feeling of lack doesn't cripple the production, but does render it halting and a little graceless.
Written for City Limits magazine.
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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