Theatre review: As you like It reminds us that the Bard knew a thing or two about entertainment

By Paul Simei-Barton

The all-male cast brings an enormous amount of fun to the Bard's works at the Ellerslie Racecourse.
The all-male cast brings an enormous amount of fun to the Bard's works at the Ellerslie Racecourse.

The Pop-up Globe is back! Looking a touch more refined amid the flower beds of Ellerslie Racecourse the venture retains its informal, makeshift vibe with scaffold towers locking together to mark out the dimensions of a building that once housed a theatrical revolution.

Modern scholarship has made us acutely aware of Shakespeare's rich language and thematic complexity but the Pop-up Globe reminds us that the Bard also knew a thing or two about entertainment.

UK Director Tom Mallaburn brings an enormous sense of fun to a production that has pop culture colliding with traditional folk music, a mash-up of accents and robust buffoonery that feeds off the boisterous energy of the groundlings standing in front of the stage.

Judicious cuts to text allow time for improvised banter with the audience, a finely choreographed wrestling match, a lip-synched tribute to Titanic and raucous cameos by a frolicking mob of sheep.

All of which seems perfectly in tune with the themes of a play in which Shakespeare appears to be simultaneously mocking and celebrating the irresistible silliness of love.

The all-male casting shines a revealing light on the cross-gender shenanigans that are at the heart of As You Like It. In the plum role of Rosalind, Jonathan Tynan-Moss is a hilarious bundle of energy as he swings between bovver-boy macho and the heart-fluttering rapture of a love-struck girl.

Michael Mahony as the musically talent jester Touchstone establishes an intimate bond with the audience while Rawiri Paratene and Stephen Papps bring a measure of dignity to rag-tag band of exiles seeking refuge amongst the shepherds of Arden forest.

With four weddings and a reconciliation the finale is suitably anarchic with bagpipes, cacophonous percussion and a dance routine that sits somewhere between a Highland fling, an Irish jig and a Beyonce video.

What: As You Like It
Where: Pop-up Globe, Ellerslie Racecourse to May 13

- NZ Herald

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