Rosas in Golden Hours (As You Like It) at Sadler’s Wells, London
March 8, 2016
As You Like It is one of Shakespeare’s liveliest and most complex comedies with a deeper message concerning corrupt court and the freedom of the forest and most importantly, the nature of love. Rosalind and Orlando may love at first sight but he must run the gauntlet and prove his love before the wiser Rosalind accepts him. It is she who later castigates the shepherdess, Phoebe, for choosing to love with her eyes only, by falling for Rosalind in boy’s clothing, and rejecting her faithful shepherd. Golden Hours, sadly didn’t even seem to scratch the surface.
Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker has bravely attempted an entirely new movement vocabulary in her interpretation of the play, using freer and more loosely structured movement. The dancers, eleven of them, are let off the lead to gambol and frolic across the wide expanse of the stage and even spill into the stalls. The free movement shows its limits when expressing the detail of the plot. Gestures, which in De Keersmaeker’s abstract choreography are so full of meaning, lost their potency and became simply miming to the text. Neither did she find, on her unaccustomed path, a way into the philosophical depths of the play.
The dancers remain resolutely unemotional, even when madly in love. Rosalind is one of Shakespeare’s bravest and brightest heroines but there seemed little of her spirit in Aron Blom, an interestingly androgynous performer, who was disappointingly coy. However, Phoebe, a petulant Georgia Vardarou, gave a vibrant performance. As no-one seemed to care much for anyone else the exhilarating denouement went for nothing.
De Keersmaeker describes the play as a ‘queer comedy’ and her pairings are pretty uniformly same sex. This adds a different sort of interest but pulls the plug on the concept of cross dressing. The tingle factor that both audience and player experience in the layered subversion of boy dressed as girl disguised as boy was lost.
The setting views the Bard through a postmodern prism. The stage stripped bare and illuminated by a wide panel of neon lights, while the dress was orthodox ordinary. De Keersmaeker’s practice of dispensing with fripperies to focus on the form proved a handicap in this brave new world where fantasy is a prerequisite. Brian Eno’s, Another Green World, should have evoked the Forest of Arden but, even after a number of repeats, the setting stayed grey and forbidding making the title somewhat ironic.
I was delighted that a half hour has been cut since the premiere but at two hours and five minutes Golden Hours really needs more substance and soul.