More than two years ago, the esteemed Royal Shakespeare Company earned rave reviews for its production of “As You Like It,” which included a scene where a dead rabbit is skinned and beheaded on stage. The moment was meant to underscore Shakespeare’s description of the no-nonsense nature of country life.
Apparently, New York audiences are a bit more squeamish than their British counterparts. The company’s production, which will open Wednesday in the city as part of the Lincoln Center Festival, has switched course at the last minute and cut that visceral moment from the comedy.
The decision to remove the dead rabbit from “As You Like It”—one of five RSC productions in repertory this summer at the Park Avenue Armory—was made after the festival received complaints from people who had read about the scene in a story in The Wall Street Journal on Friday, said festival spokeswoman Eileen McMahon. Referring to the use of the animals in the play, which is directed by RSC artistic director Michael Boyd, Ms. McMahon said: “There was a reaction. Michael didn’t want that to distract from the larger production.”
Over the weekend, the festival issued a statement on its Facebook page saying: “The RSC will not use rabbits during its performances of As You Like It in New York.” The reversal was met with cheers from rabbit advocates, though some still chided the festival on Facebook. “A theater company of this caliber should know better,” wrote “Flopsy Parker.”