I'd forgotten, for example, that Lia Williams's Rosalind is not alone on stage, as is customary, when she delivers the Epilogue. Barnaby Kay's delightful Orlando - rugged, good-natured, damaged and, at times, winningly goofy - lies watching her, eyes shining with pride.
Cooke's interpretation wins him the right to share these closing moments, for in this version, the hero eventually rumbles Rosalind's ruse of male mufti and handles the resulting situation with such emotional intelligence and tact that he effectively becomes her co-conspirator in completing the comic design. Orlando's great line, "I can live no longer by thinking", becomes here a gentle, pointed warning to Rosalind that it is time to stop playing games, and the compulsively talkative heroine gives his remark the respect of a long, pensive pause before replying.
It is high praise that Williams, a flaxen-haired tomboy in her guise as Ganymede, reminds you of Hazlitt's perceptive comment that "[Rosalind's] tongue runs the faster to conceal the pressure at her heart. She talks herself out of breath only to get the deeper in love". Williams also conveys well how chancy and hand-to-mouth are her dealings with Orlando. She has no clear game plan, but relies on desperate, spur-of-the-moment inspiration. She's giddy, radiant, playful and passionate, but the performance would be even better if she could be less self-conscious.
Amanda Harris, though, is deliciously funny as Celia, playing her as a myopic, repressed, head-prefect type who also fancies Orlando and yearns to whip off her specs and let down her hair like a smouldering sexpot.
The production combines fine individual performances - Joseph Mydell's Jaques is a vividly pompous poseur who savours his melancholy; Paul Chahidi is an incisive, audience-baiting Touchstone - with a strong sense of company: at the start, the whole cast assembles beneath the huge pine that dominates Rae Smith's set, for a snowy rendition of "Under the Greenwood Tree".
To 25 March (0870 950 0940)
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