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As You Like It – Actors Church, London

Writer: William Shakespeare

Director: Daniel Winder

Reviewer: Jemma Bicknell

[rating:5]

I hate getting rained on, so it’s pretty impressive that I came out of Iris Theatre’s ‘As You Like It’, having been rained on for about two hours, in a very good mood. I also came out thinking- this is my favourite Shakespeare play, but, dare I say it, I believe this is even more a testimony to Iris theatre’s inventive staging that the Bard’s writing! By the second scene it was clear that we were watching a very skillful and imaginative production. The comic timing was wonderful, the use of various sites well considered and managed by a team of gentle ushers, with a magical set designed by Tessa Battisi, and a cast highly in tune with one another. The players and audience moved around the beautiful gardens en mass, at one point making a ‘circle of fools’ in an enchanted forest hung with lanterns. The intimacy of this space was matched by the actor’s interaction with the audience; singing comfortably in close range, sitting among us, even creating a communion of bread munching.

The main characters were just superb, sucking us into the drama straight away with their emotional energy and very physical performances. The movement and fighting was excellent, the audience wincing as William, played by William Reay, convincingly thudded onto the ground or off a wall once again. Emily Tucker was an ideal Rosalind, pitch perfect in her feisty portrayal of both aspects of her character. Joe Forte as Orlando possessed brawn and a wonderfully romantic streak in equal measure, and Diana Kashlan stole the show as Touchstone the courtier fool. Her eyes bulged and her tongue flickered as she leaped about, relishing her almost tongue-twisting lines. Matthew Mellalieu, also in cross-dress as Audrey- Touchstone’s wife to be, was hilarious as he sang and squeezed his fake boobs, and earlier as he ripped off his suit to reveal his wrestling stripes. Heather Johnson and Christopher Rowland sang beautifully throughout, although Rowland occasionally wandered into Westlife territory with his overly dreamy expression.

What was most thrilling about this show was the way it really brought the play to life and up to date, despite being set in the original time. There were forty or so school kids in attendance, who at first seemed a little fidgety, but by the end, as we sat in the pews of the atmospheric church, were as enthralled as the rest of us. This was a gorgeous play which I cannot recommend enough.

Photo: Hannah Barton

Runs until 4th August

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