As You Like It – 5 Stars

Squares

As You Like It

Arundel and Ladbroke Gardens

Shakespeare in the Squares 

Reviewed – 26th June 2018

★★★★★

“Tatty Hennessy’s perception and imagination bring this production alive”

 

Love and music, freedom and flares! The gardens of London become the Forest of Arden in this brilliantly updated version of ‘As You Like It’. By setting the production in the late 60s, early 70s, director, Tatty Hennessy, transfers the essence of Shakespeare’s pastoral, romantic comedy to the hippie era with its optimistic ideas of free thinking, breaking rules and getting away from conformity. In addition, it underlines the strength of his women characters, complementing the positive female spirit of the play by changing the genders of Jaques and the Dukes and generating a mother-earth forest community, supportive and nurturing.

The excellent performances by the whole cast bring vibrancy and shade, several members having two or three roles to portray, creating texture and fluidity with an array of well-defined figures; Stanton Plummer-Cambridge and Lamin Touray excel in this multitasking.

Set against a background of growing feminism, the women are unapologetically feisty and demanding in their pursuit of life and love. The enamoured Rosalind, in a spirited performance by Katharine Moraz, takes control of her destiny, accompanied by Comfort Fabian’s Celia, whose genuine enthusiasm is astutely modernised in movement and speech. Phoebe (Emmy Stonelake) and Audrey ((Jodie Jacobs) are beautifully unabashed and determined in procuring their hearts’ desires, and Julia Righton steps assuredly between good and evil as both Duchesses. Sian Martin plays Jaques with a cynical sneer, perfectly counterbalancing the enjoyment and love for life which surrounds her. And up against all this feminine zeal, Orlando (Jack Brett) is the picture of bemused, love-struck youth. A special mention for Sydney K Smith’s ‘Motown’ Touchstone, who encapsulates the foolish image, moves and talk of those disco days (which some of us remember!), while wholly attuned to Shakespeare’s words.

The importance of music in ‘As You Like It’, being Shakespeare’s most musical play, naturally lends itself to the 70s ambiance of the early music festivals which blends into the parks and gardens milieu and draws the audience into a convivial atmosphere. The stylish singing which sets the scene and the diverse incidental songs and instrumental music (Richard Baker) show an added facet to these talented actors. Simple, colourful decor (Emily Stuart) immediately conveys a feeling of rustic celebration and the casting (Becky Paris) allows for a balanced variety of accents which add depth and clarity to the characters.

Tatty Hennessy’s perception and imagination bring this production alive with relevance to those years not so far gone and to today’s similar issues of inequality and oppression. The changes of era and gender have sense and purpose, showing the fortitude and quality of women and the need to escape authority, but also the timeless quest for love and happiness. ‘As You Like It’ is the perfect end to a sunny summer’s day…or any other day.

 

Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington

Photography by James Millar

 


As You Like It

Shakespeare in the Squares

 

 

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