As You Like It draws to a close and we witness the triple marriage at the end of the play. Spread out on a wooden kitchen table are bottles of hygiene products and cans of food placed in carefully thought-out locations on the table. Robin Arthur, the sole performer, moves a plastic container of soap to stand next to a bottle of olive oil, while dictating their movements. A jar of olive oil plays as Oliver, a can of beans plays as Touchstone, and Arthur puts himself in the story and manipulates those household objects as placeholders for actors.
When Celia and Rosalind (bottles of soap in this performance) decide to disguise themselves as Aliena and Ganymede, Arthur manipulates the soap bottles in one simple action that makes all the difference. As Celia and Rosalind, the soap bottles are right-side-up. As the brother and sister duo, Arthur flips the bottles upside-down. This is a simple movement, but this offers the constant reminder of Celia and Rosalind’s disguise.
This Unique CAP UCLA Production Simplifies Dialogue
Arthur’s modern dialogue allows us to disentangle Shakespeare’s complex, difficult-to-read language. As he manipulates the characters around on the table, he speaks slowly and makes eye contact with us, allowing us to understand every word. Orlando’s pining and Celia and Rosalind’s plan to retreat into the Forest of Ardenne is made blatantly obvious without the complexity and extravagance of the original text. Audience members won’t need a translated copy of the play by their side.
Diehard fans of Shakespeare, especially of his language, might find this modern take of the Bard a deterrent. Without Shakespeare’s in-depth language and style, this simplified dialogue doesn’t have the same punch found in Shakespeare’s plays and characters’ personalities don’t shine as they originally would, in this writer’s view.
With this in mind, consider this performance as a best fit for educational purposes and geared for those struggling through Shakespeare in their high school class. The Bard’s simplified language in this production might be especially appealing to such students.
The use of household objects as characters also might make this performance more interesting to some. More avid fans of Shakespeare might want to take a step back and move toward a more traditional Shakespeare production.
This performance is part of the Forced Entertainment Complete Works: Table Top Shakespeare: At Home. A spokesperson for the series explains, “…The performances in Complete Works: Table Top Shakespeare: At Home explore the dynamic force of narrative in relation to Shakespeare’s comedies, tragedies and histories. What follows are absurd and strangely compelling lo-fi, home-made puppetry shows. These Shakespearean plays come to life vividly — just in miniature. Each play is intimately retold by one actor, sitting alone at a table alongside shelves lined with everyday products which become the play’s characters. A salt and pepper shaker are used for the king and queen, a vase for the prince and so on…”
Watch this short teaser showing a scene from the award winner of this unique festival-
Complete Works: Table Top Shakespeare: At Home series continues through November 30
Advance registration on the CAP UCLA website is required.
As You Like It is now over but performances from the series continue. Visit CAP UCLA for more show information.
Image courtesy of CAP UCLA.
About the Author: Annabelle Harsch
Annabelle has perpetual graphite smears on her hands from stories she wrote. She’s written about secrets and regret, but her favorite things to write about are love and dragons, good or bad. When Annabelle isn’t reading and writing, she’s usually hiking or buying plants and books.