Theatre in Wales

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A Lot To Like

At Theatr Clwyd

Clwyd Theatr Cymru- As You Like It , Anthony Hopkins Theatre, Clwyd Theatr Cymru , February 15, 2012
At Theatr Clwyd by Clwyd Theatr Cymru- As You Like It To listen, in acting as in life, is harder than to talk. In an early forest scene Robert Blythe's Duke and Philip Bretherton's Jaques hold the foreground. Behind them, Paul Morgans plays Amiens, one of the exiled lords. His head is poised to one side. His attention moves intently from one speaker to another, then back again. He is engaged wholly with what is being said. It is a hallmark, albeit a small one, of a company at its peak.

Paul Morgans also gets to sing, melodiously. The lyrics contend that “most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly”. In “As You Like It” four couples vie for each other, they swoon, play and evade. Love's expression, from commentators and players alike, runs the gamut from cynicism to open-heartedness. Sion Pritchard is a straw-hatted, maladroit Silvius. He, ironically, is given the lines of truth: “It is to be made of all faith and service.”

“As You Like It” was written at a time when actors were plentiful. New characters turn up late and often. The company numbers seventeen. Katie Elin-Salt, dressed as if for a Fragonard, gives Phoebe a richly comic playing. On first sight of Ganymede she purrs, volubly. Dyfrig Morris runs the social spectrum from lordly Duke Frederick to slow-talking William. Michael Geary is a fast-paced, big-haired, mincing courtier, cut from a Daumier cartoon.

Daniel Llewelyn-Williams begins with a nasty snigger and a nasal breathing that denotes anger. He ends with a jump in the air to mark his brotherly reconciliation. Ifan Huw Dafydd's Corin’s greatest pride is in seeing his ewes graze and his lambs suck, and he means it. Christian Patterson's Touchstone wears a magnificent silver-and-black harlequin-patterned waistcoat at court. His rustic and amatory descent transforms him to a flower-festooned Silenus.

Philip Bretherton wears a wide-brimmed black hat and ankle-length coat. In a bravura directorial moment, the coat envelops Hedydd Dylan's Rosalind in a lonely woodland scene. When he comes to speak of the ages of man, there is no grandstanding. He is seated, and the words come out, as if being freshly thought. The greatest artistry of all is that which conceals itself.

The timing of this production has a fine touch of seasonality to it. It previewed on nights of frost. By opening night it was snowdrop season. In Act One the exiles shiver and wrap themselves in blankets. Max Jones' trees for the Forest of Arden are bleak and leafless. A chilly winter light pervades. By the time that Alex Felton's tousle-haired Orlando is pinning up his love lyrics, flowers have sprouted. Towards the close leaves fall by the thousand; they are golden.

It is some years since Theatre Clwyd Cymru took a large-scale classical play South. This luminous production plays Swansea 13-17 March and Cardiff 20-24 March.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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