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As You Like It
Regents Park Open Air Theatre, London
THE SHAME of this wonderful show is that it’s only scheduled until July 28. Joyful, playful and delightfully funny in all the right places, it deserves far greater exposure than just a three-week run.
There are fabulous performances everywhere you look, with a new-age, dreadlocked Maureen Beattie taking full advantage of her role as the wise, curmudgeonly Jaques and Danny Kirrane and Amy Booth-Steel playing the overwrought lovers Touchstone and Audrey to great comic effect.
Edward Hogg is excellent as an irretrievably lovelorn, idealistic Orlando and Me’sha Bryan is an alluring, sweet-voiced focal point for the musical interludes, well directed and arranged by Phil Bateman.
Most of all, though, Olivia Vinall is outstanding as Rosalind, floating her amusingly wide-legged, thigh-slapping attempts at feigned masculinity above a beguilingly feminine undertow.
Director Max Webster introduces enough modernity to make the whole offering refreshing yet not too much to frighten the traditionalist horses.
The same goes for the glorious set, designed by Naomi Dawson, which serves up an especially thrilling and heartwarming moment when the initially sparse, rubbish-strewn scene of the first act is dramatically withdrawn to show us the beautiful woodland home for the rest of the play, complemented as it is by the beauty of Regents Park itself.
Below the light-hearted romantic fun, Webster is mindful to focus on the play’s ever-more relevant consideration of the drawbacks of shallow corporate urban existence, particularly in contrast to what Shakespeare portrays as the more rounded, spiritually connected life of the land — a way of being that, as Duke Senior (Simon Armstrong) says in the second act, “finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones and good in everything.”
There is good in everything that this production has to offer, too. Watch it and you’ll almost certainly want to see it again.
Box office: openairtheatre.com
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