By Veronika Kallus
It is difficult to stage a play mainly set in a forest in an 2-stories-down townhouse in the Edinburgh New Town. A recommendable idea might be to go as minimalistic as possible – which Arkle Theatre Productions certainly did in their version of As You Like It. Bird song and a tree that changes seasons was all there was – but the acting, for the most part, provided the depth necessary to enjoy this all-time favourite Shakespearian comedy.
Orlando falls in love with Rosalind who has to flee the Duke her uncle’s court disguised as a young man named Ganymede, accompanied by her cousin and the court jester, to join her banished father in the forest of Arden, to which also Orlando flees as he is chased by his older brother Oliver who later falls in love with Rosalind’s cousin. Along the way, melancholy is introduced, and the Seven Ages of Man- speech is delivered. A lot to pack into one and a half hours, and a brave archivement.
With time and space restrictions, unfortunately not enough character development can be allowed. The actors make up for that with the intensity and clarity they play, but sometimes that leads to the ensemble consisting too much of single characters rather than appearing of one common mould.
The relationship between Orlando, played excellently by Jamie Lynch, and the disguised Rosalind (Bronagh Finlay) is lacking sharpness and definition in this twisted set-up of cross dressing and homoerotic tension – but again, maybe that is mainly owed to the time restrictions rather than the actors’ abilities.
It is nice to see a range of players of all ages which offers credibility and gravity. Ian Aldred was very convincing in each of his roles as Duke Frederick and Duke Senior – only the switch in between them often came to sudden, thus provoking some overacting in the process.
Altogether a grounded and good production, and an almost full house certainly enjoyed themselves and the fact that during August in Edinburgh all the world’s a stage.