This new imagining of Shakespeare's comedy was inspired by stories of real migrants trying to get into England, and by their existence in the strange limbo between places. To this end, the Forest of Arden has become a decaying squat full of mangy mattresses and peeling wallpaper. Just in case the link wasn't clear enough, they've also added a pre-prologue where Adam talks in modern English about his journey to enter the United Kingdom. This becomes the framing device for the rest of the play, as he expresses a desire for his fellow squatters to act out the only play he possess: As You Like It.

While some pure-blooded Shakespearean elitists might disapprove of this contemporary addition, the new introduction takes us by surprise and adds depth and originality to the familiar story of banishment and love. Shakespeare's language can sometimes be a stumbling block for productions and audiences, but Transport's As You Like It takes you through the tale with clarity and purpose so that it is accessible enough for novices and eloquent enough for experts.

The occasional use of physical theatre makes for a real treat. The wrestling match manages to move from artistic slow motion to the uncomfortably realistic and the journey through Arden's wilderness via suitcase stepping stones is a well-executed delight. Indeed, the way the set is managed is interesting: the positioning of the two walls means that parts of the backstage area are visible. We can see when an actor is getting ready to come on, and sometimes they even watch the scene with us. This was a bold move with mixed results. Sometimes it suggests an interesting meta relationships between the play and the actors and at other times it is used to split the scene - for instance, when we see Rosalind become a man backstage. At other times it is just a tad distracting.

The cast is strong, and those who double up make a clear distinction between roles, with some of the smallest parts making bold marks. Mark Jax as Jaques and Duke Frederick was undoubtedly the star of the show. With his commanding presence and booming voice he brought magnitude and gravitas to every moment he was on stage. His rather unmelancholic Jaques, belying much of his speech, gained a layer of pretension that worked. 

As You Like It is a comedy and this production doesn't let you forget it. Unsurprisingly, the fool Touchstone (Colin Michael Carmichael) is the source of the most laughs, and his seduction of Audrey and fight with William provide relief from some of the more tense and romantic scenes. Carmichael also doubles as Amiens, but aside from the costume change the characters aren't dissimilar and both are played for laughs – Amiens gets a recurring gag where he mimes to a cassette tape, fooling others into thinking it is his voice – so that one could almost be tricked into thinking they were the same person living two lives: this is complicated further when he returns to fulfil the role of Hymen at the wedding, wearing a mixture of both costumes.

The production itself is well-handled and visually stunning in places. Orlando's love letters rise like flagpoles above the stage and lighting snaps dynamically from the dim glow of the forest to the blinding lights of an overhead helicopter. With enough innovation to excite and an energy of spirit that lifts the audience with them, Transport's take on As You Like It is certainly one to remember.

As You Like It, at The Albany

To succeed in Shakespeare, you need to perform a delicate balancing act of innovation and reverence: to know what to adapt and to leave alone. This production of As You Like It by Transport manages to do exactly that. At the Albany.

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