Why Shakespeare is the genuine inventor of slapstick comedy

Patsy Ferran (Celia) and Rosalie Craig (Rosalind) in William Shakespeare's As You Like It, directed by Polly Findlay at the National Theatre.  Photo by Johan Persson.
Patsy Ferran (Celia) and Rosalie Craig (Rosalind) in William Shakespeare's As You Like It, directed by Polly Findlay at the National Theatre. Photo by Johan Persson.
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THEATRE REVIEW: As You Like It, National Theatre Live, South Holland Centre, Spalding

The Shakespeare play with the saying “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players” has a strong claim to be the first English comedy ever written.

Evidence for that comes from director Polly Finday’s version of As You Like It, a production about love, lust, treachery and change.

Rosalind (Rosalie Craig) sets out with her cousin Celia (Patsy Ferran) into the Forest of Arden (now a golf and country club in Warwickshire) to search of her father Duke Senior (John Ramm) who has been banised by his brother Duke Frederick (Leo Wringer).

During their search, Rosalind and Celia find freedom and independence, just like a teenager leaving home for the first time.

Rosalind disguises herself as a boy and finds love with Orlando (Joe Bannister), the son of the late Sir Rowland de Bois.

Shakespeare is absolutely the bedrock of our literary culture, let alone our dramatic culture

Rufus Norris, artistic director at the National Theatre

Three other relationships, involving a clown, country boy and Celia, blossom at the same time.

But the big suprise of As You Like It is its comedy, similar to such guilty pleasures as The Benny Hill Show and the Carry On films.

As Rufus Norris, artistic director at the National Theatre, said: “Nobody’s done it better than Shakespeare”.

Review by Winston Brown