As You Like It, Novello Theatre, London

A pastoral patchwork
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A massive fir tree is growing out of the stage in the RSC's production of Shakespeare's initially wintry romcom, directed by Dominic Cooke who is soon to take over as artistic director at the Royal Court.

This is a tricky play, turning into a sort of pastoral patchwork. Cooke hasn't thought everything through, eliciting only haphazard intimations that it's freezing in the early scenes and having it every which way with Touchstone sporting a medieval jester's cap amid Edwardian-going-on-1960s costumes. He also occasionally lets his actors tilt into caricature and cuteness.

But, like the weather, the evening warms up enjoyably and, though I've seen more emotionally intense adolescent Rosalinds, Lia Williams is a very persuasive, attractively scruffy tomboy en travestie, becoming pained and buoyant in love. Cooke highlights the paradoxical nature of his fur-coated courtiers; John Mackay as the baddy brother, Oliver, is interestingly riven with tenderness from the start, and Jonathan Newth's lightning role-changes - playing both Rosalind's cruel uncle and kindly father - encapsulates the play's fascination with alter egos quite brilliantly. KB

Booking to 25 March, 0870 1451163

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