As You Like It

By William Shakespeare
Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, London

Is it as we like it? This good-natured production begins with a guy clutching his crotch while delivering a rock rendition of Feste’s Song from Twelfth Night, with the refrain: “For the rain it raineth every day.” Which seems an unconvincing claim at present. Then, when we meet the hapless younger son, Orlando (Edward Hogg), he’s dressed as a McDonald’s employee. It’s an unlikely day job for a posh kid, even one on his uppers. Little wonder he does a runner to the Forest of Arden, in search of a better life amid the outlaw community headed by the banished Duke Senior (a charismatic Simon Armstrong). Things also look up for the lovestruck Rosalind (Olivia Vinall) when, dressed as a man, she follows him there. For us, too: Vinall’s boisterous male-impersonation shtick is very funny. And there are other consolations in this streetwise setting of one of Shakespeare’s less consequential comedies. The musical arrangements of the songs, which come courtesy of Charlie Fink (formerly of Noah and the Whale), are terrific. Also in Arcadia is the melancholy Jaques, authoritatively embodied by Maureen Beattie with trailing dreadlocks, Medusa-like. Her understated performance works especially in her delivery of the “seven ages” monologue, which she presents casually, as if it hasjust occurred to her. That’s quite a feat.