Oh, giddy love. Max Webster’s rampant As You Like It comes to the London stage, (re-re-imagined for anyone age 6 and over”) putting a modern 1990’s spin on this sharp pastoral comedy romance. It has become rude for productions not to add social commentary or social political commentary to the “proceedings” and “As You Like It” screams save the planet, pollution, with a set built by Naomi Dawson, you get a slimy pool with floating bags of crisps, plastic bottles and cans. The setting is a rural forest, where there are recycled tyres and feasts to be had of beer and fruit. The backdrop of Regents Park creates the perfect setting.
The play opens with the entire cast singing “The rain it raineth every day” from Twelfth Night. As You Like It follows heroine Rosalind (played with gusto by Olivia Vinall) who after falling for Orlando (Edward Hogg) must flee persecution in her uncle’s court, to the Forest of Arden, where with her cousin Celia (Keziah Joseph capturing a playful Celia well) they encounter a variety of characters and find safety and eventually suitors. Notably the melancholy and gloomy traveller Jaques (Maureen Beattie) who performs one of Shakespeare’s most famous speeches “All the world’s a Stage”.
When they get to the forest Rosalind disguises herself as a boy to become the crotch grabbing basketball hat wearing Ganymede and the confusion begins when Orlando stumbles across Ganymede in the forest and (Rosalind/Ganymede) tries to teach him how to fall out of love. Later, the plastic bottles and cans in the pool are replaced by flowers blooming. And love blooms as Orlando falls for Ganymede and Phebe (Joanne McGuinness) for falls for Ganymede and Silvius (Jacade Simpson) falls madly in love with Phebe.
All round cast performance is brilliant with standout performances by Touchstone (Danny Kirrane), whose comedic timing is spot on. The musical performances by Amiens (Me’sha Bryan) are an excellent way to break up the scenes and to end. This production is just the perfect “event” for Shakespeare fans and novices and for all. Webster’s As You Like It is a well-directed ballsy comedy.
The cast includes: Simon Armstrong, Jack Beale, Maureen Beattie, Amy Booth-Steel, Me’sha Bryan, Edward Hogg, Keziah Joseph, Beruce Khan, Danny Kirrane, Gary Lilburn, Joanne McGuinness, Kristian Phillip, Jacade Simpson, John Stahl, Olivia Vinall, and Silas Wyatt-Barke. Image credit: Keziah Joseph, Edward Hogg and Olivia Vinall as Celia, Orlando and Rosalind photo by Jane Hobson
Alt A rating 4/5. Catch As You Like It at Regents Park Open Air Theatre book here runs until 28th July 2018