As You Like It presented by A Company of Fools is everything you want in a summer show: slapstick comedy, witty puns, sappy romance, treachery and betrayal, fight scenes, high culture, and of course a liberal sprinkling of gender-bending mix-ups.
Should you see it?
As with most of Shakespeare’s work, the story of As You Like It is a bit convoluted. Fortunately, A Company of Fools is skilled in presenting the bard’s plays in an accessible and highly entertaining manner so even the most reluctant neophytes (and the youngsters in the crowd) won’t have a hard time following the action, which is as follows:
Basically, this is a love story between Orlando and Rosalind who first meet when Orlando is getting the stuffing kicked out of him by the court’s wrestler. Miraculously Orlando wins the bout but has to flee since the match was to be used as a murderous vehicle by his brother Olivier.
Meanwhile, Rosalind is banished by her usurping uncle who had previously banished her father (the Duke) and kept young Rosalind around mainly for the sake of his own daughter, Celia. Disguised as Ganymede and his sister Aliena, Rosalind and Celia are off to the Forest of Arden joined by their beloved jester, Touchstone.
There, Ganymede generously offers to teach Orlando the ways of wooing women by pretending to be Rosalind; Touchstone falls in love with a sassy, good ol’ western gal named Audrey; and we are introduced to the surfer-dude shepherds Silvius – who loves Phoebe – and Phoebe – who only has eyes for Ganymede.
I won’t give away the ending but suffice to say it involves family forgiveness, a quadruple wedding and, in the case of tonight’s show, a thunderous round of applause for the Fools who once again have succeeded in staying true to Shakespeare’s vision while applying the perfect amounts of physical comedy and modern popular culture references to keep it relevant and entertaining for today.
My only problem with this show is that it does not contain the same upbeat, over-the-top shenanigans I’ve come to expect from the Fools. The middle dragged on with repetitive scenes and dense text, some by characters I haven’t mentioned because they’re not integral to the plot. Unlike other Fools’ offerings, this is not a show that children will stay engaged with throughout.
That being said, this was a thoroughly well-done show. The actors all showed great versatility and talent, each playing multiple characters so well that you forget there are only five people in the cast. I was particularly impressed by how alive, alluring, and authentic the Duke’s puppet is. I have to mention, however, that Catriona Leger stole the show. I can’t decide if my favourite part of this show was her macho portrayal of Olivier was or her quirky Touchstone. Either way, I couldn’t take my eyes off her.
In my opinion, there’s truly nowhere better to be in Ottawa during a sunny July (or August) evening than in a park with A Company of Fools.
But that’s just my opinion and I’d love to know what you think. Is there somewhere better to be in an Ottawa summer than in the park with A Company of Fools? Did you find it hilarious and entertaining, or was it a bit more subdued than you expected? Who was your As You Like It crush? Join the discussion in the comments below.