What is it like seeing a production as it has started to bed down and well into its run. I’ve seen the RSC’s As You Like It five times now. Once very early in its run in May and then in July when Mariah Gale was playing Rosalind. I think the production has matured, just as I think The Winter’s Tale has really improved as the actors settle into the roles. In the RSC’s As You Like It, the world of Arden is cold, bitter and harsh. This is a contrast to the Arden in the current Shakespeare’s Globe production. The Globe production is probably more joyous then the RSC production and Arden is a much nicer place. Certainly in the RSC production there is more of a sense of the ‘churlish chiding of the winter wind (II.i.6). I like these contrasts as I like to see different interpretations of Shakespeare’s text and sometimes, an experiment might not work, which I think as an audience you can sometimes accept.
Another difference between the Globe and the RSC productions is how Rosalind wears her hair, which I know has been a talking point for some people. One experiment in the current RSC production was for Rosalind to let her hair down rather than cut it short or hide it under a hat when she becomes Ganymede. As Rosalind becomes more established and more confident in the forest, her hair becomes messier and unrestrained. It was a bold decision to play Rosalind this way, and I think on this occasion it worked. I thought that the whole idea behind this production was to show a contrast between the formal court which was full of ritual, straight lines and dress that confines people, to a forest where dress can become timeless and unbuttoned. In the court, members of the court danced in unison, in the forest they danced in circles, clothes changes style and became relevant to no place than a particular time in history, and hair was not styled. The closer Rosalind got to Orlando particularly in the Ganymede/Orlando wooing scenes, Rosalind’s hair strayed across her face. Katy Stephens is a Rosalind who is at times uncomfortable dressing as a boy. She is impatient to unmask herself and be female again, and there is one point where she triess to take off her trousers and disgard the male clothes. Mariah Gale’s Celia attempts to maintain the disguise and not let Rosalind reveal her gender until it feels safe in the forest to do so.
At the end of the RSC production, Katy Stephens’ Rosalind appears for her wedding scene and her hair has been dressed for it. She’s not back in the formal Elizabethan/Jacobean dress, but in a white dress, trimmed with flowers as if to signal, even though she is now back as a woman , she will not be returning yet to the stiff formality of the court. Yes she’s the heir to the dukedom with the hair to express this.