Reviews are in for Josie Rourke’s revival of Shakespeare’s As You Like It @sohoplace in London
Shakespeare’s comedy stars Leah Harvey (Foundation) as Rosalind, Rose Ayling-Ellis (EastEnders) as Celia, Alfred Enoch (How To Get Away with Murder) as Orlando, Tom Mison (Sleepy Hollow) as Touchstone and Martha Plimpton (The Good Wife, The Goonies) as Jaques.
Completing the cast are Allie Danie, Tom Edden, Dickon Gough, Gabriella Leon, Mary Malone, Syakira Moeladi, Nathan Queeley-Dennis, Cal Watson, June Watson and Ben Wiggins.
The production is unique in that it the company use BSL (British Sign Language) as part of the performance with captions incorporated into the production to create a fully inclusive experience for all.
It feature designs by Rob Jones, lighting by Howard Harrison, sound by John Leonard and music by Michael Bruce.
As You Like It will run @sohoplace until 28 January 2023.
Read a round-up of reviews for As Your Like it at SohoPlace below
As You Like It reviews
"Cerebral and playful . . . there’s a lot to like"
"Josie Rourke’s enchanting production, a shimmering blend of the playful and the cerebral, drew us inexorably into a fantasy realm."
"It’s a richly atmospheric setting for Shakespeare, generating the degree of intimacy that the Globe, with its relentlessly arch approach, seldom achieves nowadays, alas."
"Alfred Enoch made a winning Orlando...Harvey was, if anything, even more impressive... Rose Ayling-Ellis, who made a confident transition from winning Strictly Come Dancing to playing Rosalind’s confidante"
"A rich and beautiful staging full of music and charm"
Rourke seems instinctively to have understood the demands and opportunities of a venue where 600 audience members in three vertically-stacked tiers completely surround the stage. This place has the bare-bones simplicity of Shakespeare’s Globe but an even greater intimacy. It’s just us and the actors in close proximity with little scope for set. So designer Robert Jones, with Poppy Hall, has great fun with the costumes, especially Plimpton’s wigs and britches."
"This As You Like It isn’t perfect: some moments lag and Tom Mison’s languid fool Touchstone didn’t work for me. But Rourke’s joyful, bold production gives us an idea of what this new theatre can show us."
"Josie Rourke leads us into the liberating delight of Arden"
"Martha Plimpton and the whole ensemble shine in Shakespeare’s nuanced romance interwoven with sign language and song"
"That mime is part of a grander concept behind director Josie Rourke’s delicate and delightful production, which finds a perfect balance between West End spectacle and Shakespearean purity. The speeches of love, friendship and loyalty between characters come with the physicality and intimacy of British Sign Language, as central to the drama as music and song. It is organically interwoven and brings the play’s intensities surging to the surface."
"A lovably minx-ish Celia (Rose Ayling-Ellis) speaks to her banished cousin Rosalind (Leah Harvey) almost exclusively through sign, which sparks physical comedy and also genuine tenderness between them."
"Martha Plimpton, as Jaques, gives the play’s most famous lines (“All the world’s a stage”) a freshness and gravity and every other actor shines, too."
"‘Strictly’ winner Rose Ayling-Ellis heads up the cast of a populist but charming production of Shakespeare’s woodland romp"
"I’m as pessimistic about humanity as the next person, but we’ve clearly made some headway as a species when a 400-year-old Shakespeare play is refashioned to accommodate a star turn from a famous deaf actor."
"Rourke’s production seems less concerned with the more serious, court intrigue-heavy opening sections, but comes to life when its various characters have all run off to the Forest of Arden."
"This strong sense of place gives it a feeling of coherence that helps combat the nagging feeling that maybe Rourke’s production boils down to a series of turns. Ayling-Ellis’s Celia, Alfred Enoch’s distracted nerd Orlando, Leah Harvey’s chipper urchin Rosalind and big-ish name US actor Martha Plimpton’s uncomfortably over-emotional Jacques are all good fun, but feel like they’re virtually in different plays."
"Rose Ayling-Ellis is eloquence itself, but why the annoying Shakespeare-shearing elsewhere?"
"The beloved Strictly winner and EastEnders star’s use of BSL in place of spoken verse works excellently, but other changes grate"
"Josie Rourke’s staging of As You Like It, the first in-house production at Nimax’s recently opened 602-seat theatre, @sohoplace, demonstrates just how well suited this hip and happening upstart is to classical-theatrical revels."
"The beating heart of the production lies in that ardent central pair. Alfred Enoch is a wonderfully upright, gangling Orlando, a startled fawn of a boy who proves his mettle in an early wrestling match, then wanders in a daze under the confusing charm of Leah Harvey’s radiant cross-dressed Rosalind, the latter so smitten she dabs her fingers on the wrestling mat, as if trying to mop up Orlando’s presence."
"In 2023, please let’s have a little more Shakespeare as he wrote it, not as directors fancy it."
"Welcome warmth on a cold night"
"At its best, the staging has a golden-russet shimmer, as if it’s aglow with dreamy passions. At its worst, it’s over-emphatic and laborious, and, as a romantic comedy, it’s significantly stronger on the rom than the com. But Rourke draws some touching performances from her cast, with Leah Harvey an entrancing and intelligent Rosalind."
"Not a staging to lose your heart to, then; but its sunny intervals offer welcome warmth on a cold night."
"The many voices of Josie Rourke’s fresh As You Like It are led by Rose Ayling-Ellis, signing the part of Celia"
"As Celia in Josie Rourke’s production of As You Like It, in which she uses a mixture of British Sign Language and sign mime, Ayling-Ellis – and Gabriella Leon, also deaf, who makes a striking debut as Audrey – should help us consider what we think of as stage language"
"Leah Harvey is a fresh and candid Rosalind; Alfred Enoch injects vigour into the often limp Orlando (though he overeggs the humour of his woodland verses). The finest moment comes from Martha Plimpton, who is a magnificent Jaques."
"Rose Ayling-Ellis is charming in her West End debut"
"The Strictly darling stars in As You Like It – the first home-grown show from London’s newest theatre, @sohoplace. She’s wonderful, but the production isn’t entirely successful"
"Strictly sensation Rose Ayling-Ellis is the big-name draw, making a charming and confident West End debut as Celia. There is a wonderful vivacity to her performance, as she communicates in a specially concocted blend of BSL, mime and Sign Supported English."
"Perhaps an over-reliance on captioning is the cause of too much poor verse-speaking, which in turns leads to some of the lesser characters being unconvincingly fleshed out."
"Josie Rourke’s production fails to make a collection of often successful individual scenes coalesce overall, and the transcendent Act Five resolution – intriguingly played here without Rosalind changing her clothes to mark her shedding of the Ganymede persona – is underwhelming."
"Wintry enchantment with besotted lovers"
"... a gorgeous staging of As You Like It at the Soho Place theatre"
"Josie Rourke’s beautiful, intimate production relishes the warmth of the circular auditorium, bringing to the staging the simplicity often found at Shakespeare’s Globe and slipping deftly through the light and dark of this dappled story."
"And the biggest innovation in Rourke’s production comes with the casting of Rose Ayling-Ellis, who is deaf, as Celia. The actor — known to many as the winner of the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing — brings a lovely, sunny openness to the part and her relationship with Leah Harvey’s vivid, intelligent Rosalind gains a new layer. The pair use various sign languages to speak to one another, which seems to deepen their affectionate bond."