Surefooted direction... Kenneth Branagh's "As You Like It"

Guardian, 21 September 2007
By Peter Bradshaw

Kenneth Branagh's attractive, intelligent reading of Shakespeare's As You Like It deserves a look. He transplants the action to an imagined self-governing enclave of 19th-century British merchants in Japan. Brian Blessed doubles as both the wicked Duke Frederick and his virtuous brother, Duke Senior: driven from power in a palace coup to seek exile in the forest. Bryce Dallas Howard and Romola Garai are cousins Rosalind and Celia who flee Frederick's corrupt court in disguise; Kevin Kline is the melancholy courtier Jaques, who gets to do the Seven Ages of Man speech.

Branagh's direction is fluent, surefooted, a little broad sometimes; his ingenious Japanese staging recreates the wrestling match as a wacky sumo contest. It's elegant and Howard is very good.

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