19 January 2011 | miss_lady_ice-853-608700
As You Like What?
Although some of Shakespeare's plays have made a nice transition onto film, or at least, lightly entertaining, despite three film versions, As You Like It hasn't fared well on screen. Perhaps this is because of the play's nature. It's very theatrical, being mainly talk and interaction between the characters.
Of all the plays to adapt in a modern setting (Julius Caesar is the eternal story of backstabbing politicians), As You Like It does not seem the obvious choice. It is quaint and pastoral and hardly strikes an audience as being particularly socially relevant to our times. But bizarrely the director Christine Edzard sees some sort of pressing modern relevance, though nobody else seems to find this.
The court has now turned into the foyer of a posh bank with mock classical features inside. You can see how it might have looked like a good substitute for a court but it feels a little too forced to be entirely convincing.
Orlando is a sulky youth in a hoodie; Oliver is a smarmy yuppie. Both are played by Andrew Tiernan, which is initially an interesting conceit but it soon becomes a little ridiculous, particularly in the wedding scene. Tiernan is average as both.
Rosalind's cousin Celia (Celia Bannerman) is old enough to be her mother. It's just about acceptable until Celia has a chat with her father the Duke, where it is too incredible to believe that Celia could be his daughter.
So, how do you make a forest modern? You don't- you ditch the pastoral setting and use a London wasteland! In fairness, the wasteland works quite well and you get used to it, almost attached to it. It's your modern day wilderness. Jaques (James Fox) is a posh man slumming it with the homeless. Instead of being a hippie as it looks like in Branagh's film, here Jaques is a wandering soul, a loner. There is a certain sadness and mystery to him and Fox brings this out well. However for some strange reason his Seven Ages of Man speech is used as a prologue and repeated at the point it comes in the play.
Ewen Bremner is suitably pathetic as Silvius and Valerie Gogan is very good as Phoebe. Miriam Margoyles doesn't have much to do as Audrey but she does a good job but Griff Rhys Jones is incomprehensible as Touchstone. You cannot hear a word he's saying.
Emma Croft is brilliant as Rosalind. She makes a convincing transition into a young teenage boy (hoodie, baggy jeans and a hat instead of doublet and hose) unlike Bryce Dallas Howard in the 2006 film who in no way plays at being a man. Her love for Orlando is believable and she is easy to root for.
The pace of the film is incredibly slow. The beginning drags out- you might as well fast forward the action until you get to the forest. The wrestling is not shown- instead we get mild audience reaction which looks as if they're watching a man sorting out the plumbing than a life or death wrestle.
The film is a failed experiment. The modern setting doesn't help an audience understand the play, although it makes Rosalind's disguise easier and it is interesting. Most people would struggle to identify this as As You Like It, were it not for the names. One major disadvantage of modern adaptations of Shakespeare is that they can date quickly. This film is incredibly dated, despite it being made less than twenty years ago. The 1990's aren't seen as a historical period so one can't really call it 'Shakespeare for the nineties'.
Basically, the blame lies with the director. Not only is the concept flawed but the staging is often bad, the text distorted, and all the actors looked as if they have been trapped. Edzard tries to find a serious message in As You Like It that isn't there and so the whole thing is often depressing.