Maddy Price reviews Rosalind at The Place
Originally commissioned by the British Council as part of the Shakespeare Lives programme of anniversary events, this thrilling performance feels anything but made to a brief. Choreographer James Cousins has taken Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It, set it in Seoul and portrayed its heroine Rosalind with an intense physicality, all to stunning effect.
The stage is a huge metal cube which lights up eerily as the four dancers move in and out of the space. The score changes from an ethereal digital soundtrack to upbeat guitar rock music, and a voice reading prose that may or may not be Shakespeare. There seem to be influences from pop music and jazz – basically there is something for everyone here.
No detailed knowledge of the original play is necessary, although a quick scan of the Wikipedia page synopsis may be useful. The themes of the play are on clear display – fluidity of gender and sexuality are powerfully evident. Cousins and costume designer Insook Choi explore this cleverly through the dancers’ clothing, the taking on and off of which are a key part of the dance. This piece features the most acrobatic undressing I have ever seen, and at one point a dancer is forced into a wedding dress by two other dancers whilst the three of them whirl around the stage – an inventive echo of the final scenes of the play.
The choreography here ensures that the dancers are simultaneously strong and tender – in their partner work they are one minute struggling to escape each other and the next in a loving embrace. The result is an energy and constant change of pace that keep you gripped to the end of this hour-long performance. Rosalind is smart and exciting, and James Cousins surely one to watch for the future.