As You Like It: RSC Hints
When I was in England, the show my teachers (former RSC actors) kept circling around to was As You Like It.
Some of their wisdom here:
Tony Church said that when he played Duke Frederick all those years ago, they took intermission in a very strange place. They ended just after his final scene - when he's throwing about Oliver and demanding he go in search of Orlando to kill him. However, they took an extra second and had Tony consider what he'd just done, realize the enormity of brother killing brother, and break down in tears (the beginning of his conversion) - and draw the intermission curtain on that. I'm not sure if I want to end there or after Orlando's "Hang there my verse."
David Rintoul, who played Mr. Darcy in the 1970's BBC version of Pride and Prejudice (in which he looked like a corpse - age has treated him VERY well and he's all sorts of broad and robust and happy nowadays). Anywho, I remember one class he jumped up in front of us and from out of nowhere said that it's always far more interesting to have juxtapositions on stage. For example, he said, and he drew up two of us and had them look all enthusiastic behind him as he launched into Duke Senior's "Sweet are the uses of adversity" speech. (The Robin Hood line was very evident in how he delivered it. The man had PRESENCE.) It was good! Next, he had his small band of merry men look absolutely pained, bored and Not Happy To Be In The Woods...and to see that speech come alive, to see the comedy from the juxtaposition, and to understand that Duke Senior isn't just expostulating but convincing convinced me to: 1) choose the second form of the speech for ourselves; and 2) put Duke Senior, if at all possible, in Robin Hood gear. Tights and all.
Tony Church also went on and on about the text (I mean on and on in a very good sense. He said that unlike most of Shakespeare's plays, there's only one folio (version) of AYLI. Consequently, you don't have the pesky problems of, say, Hamlet where people say, "But no, it's 'the pangs of misprised love' or 'the pangs of despised love' " depending on which text you're drawing from... at the moment. He pointed out a comma that's in the original MS that modern editors have taken out from Duke Senior's speech that makes all the world of difference as to whether Duke Senior goes with Jacques and his brother to live in peace and a sort of impromptu monastery or not. Modern editors change the comma so modern directors don't have that reconciliation - Duke Senior stays with Rosalind. The original folio does no such thing. Guess what we'll do?