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REVIEW: As You Like It, RSC, Royal Shakespeare Theatre

REVIEW: As You Like It, RSC, Royal Shakespeare Theatre, until 5th August

By Steve Sutherland (aged 67)

4 stars

There’s a song by Mose Allison called Young Man Blues which was made famous by The Who when they recorded it on their LP, Live At Leeds, in 1970. It goes: "In the old days/

When a young man was a strong man/ All the people'd step back/ When a young man walked by/ But nowadays/ The old man got all the money/ And a young man/ Ain't nothin' in the world these days…”

James Hayes as Touchstone
James Hayes as Touchstone

The song was composed in 1957 but it might as well have been written last week because, if nothing else, 2023 is the year of the oldie. Elton John, 76, and his extraordinary hair headlined Glastonbury Festival a week ago in a freakishly lauded celebration of mawkish nostalgia, Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino, both in their 80s, have just announced they’re about to become parents again, to kids who, unless science gets its skates on, will never grow up to know their dads, Lana Del Rey’s father Robert has just released his debut album and he’s just turned 70. Harrison Ford’s 80 and he’s lately reprised his action heroics in Indiana Jones And The Dial Of Destiny. And now the RSC has got in on the act by turning Shakespeare’s As You Like It over to a cast who, well, let’s just say, have lived a little.

Apparently there’s a thing in the arts called being age-blind which, like being colour-blind or gender-blind when choosing actors, means you value inclusivity, equality and talent over tropes and tradition. A recent example of this would be the 82-year-old Sir Ian McKellen playing the 30-year-old Prince Hamlet because… well, I guess he just wanted to and why not? Plus, who the heck was gonna stand in his way? The rest of the cast, as I recall, were more conventionally aged which caused a few problems with our perceptions. Director Omar Elerian's As You Like It, however, isn’t to be considered one of the age-blind variety simply because it is deliberately peopled in the majority by actors older than usually expected in the roles, presumably with some ulterior purpose in mind.

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