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As You Like It

Botanic Gardens, Glasgow
Four stars

It's a big night at Oliver's nightclub at the start of Bard in the Botanics' updated look at Shakespeare's gender-bending rom-com. Oliver's swanky establishment is the place to be, even if all intimacies and asides are shared in the smoking area or the bathroom just like any club.

Alan Steele's Duke Frederick may be a shiny suited spiv, drunk on his own illegitimate power, but his daughter Celia and her cousin Rosalind are all glitzed up and ready for action. This they duly get by way of a wrestling match involving Oliver's kid brother Orlando. It's hardly WWE, but the chemistry between Orlando and Rosalind is similarly athletic in its intentions.

With Rosalind thrown out of town by Frederick, she, Celia and best pal Touchstone decide to get their heads together in the country. The Arden they arrive in like a trio of Glastonbury virgins is a flower- adorned hippy village seemingly occupied by a set of free-loving Travellers who have come together to form a tribe like the ghosts of free festivals past. In fact, they are under the benevolent and laid-back care of Rosalind's exiled old man Duke Senior.

With Rosalind disguised as a plaid-shirted and woolly-hatted hipster, the fresh air gets the hormones pumping, as Robert Elkin's Touchstone gets it on with Simon Lembcke's himbo farmer, Andrey, Kirsty Macduff's nature loving Celia falls for Oliver, and other merry dances ensue before Stephanie McGregor's Rosalind comes clean to Charlie Clee's Orlando. Only Nicole Cooper's Jaques, here a dreadlocked non-conformist wise woman more cynical than melancholy, stays outside it all.

Gordon Barr's production conjures up the two worlds on Carys Hobbs' wood-lined VIP area set with loquacious ease, as everyone involved becomes giddy with love. McGregor and McDuff make a fine double act, wrapping the men-folk around their fingers with intelligence and guile. This all makes for the prettiest of pictures that illustrates the cross-gender casting without ever making a song and dance of things. When the assorted lovers do take a spin around the garden, it’s clear the flowers of romance are in full bloom.

The Herald, July 3rd 2019

ends



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