DramaNorth WestReview

As You Like It – New Vic Theatre, Newcastle-under-Lyme

Reviewer: Mel Osborne

Writer: William Shakespeare

Director: Laurie Sansom

Northern Broadsides has been producing plays for the past 30 years and are celebrating their long reign of making classics with Northern voices. Working alongside the New Vic theatre they present As You Like it written by William Shakespeare and directed by Laurie Sansom. While the essence of the story stays true to the original it is a play that has been brushed down and whipped into shape to bring it unapologetically into 2022.

Staged within the New Vic’s theatre in the round, the set is simple but thought-provoking. Washing lines of various styles of clothing are hung up over the stage. The meaning of which becomes clearer over the course of the play as within each scene another layer of intrigue is added on or stripped away.  As you like it challenges our values and preconceived ideas with gender-fluid roles. This is an artistic and stylised production of a much-loved comedy performed in a sensitive, provocative, and teasing way.

Shakespeare and Northern dialect can be a challenge to process by the untrained ear, but it quickly makes sense and seems ‘normal’. The actors deliver the lines with speed and confidence as if it is their natural tongue.  There was some melodic musical interjection by Amiens (Jo Patterson) on guitar accompanied by her light but velvet vocals.

Touchstone (Joe Morrow) is hilarious as the court jester, who wears the most wonderfully outrageous clothes and has wit so sharp it would cut. His comic timing was faultless.  His pairing with the farmgirl Audrey (Torri Jade Donovan) is a comedy duo match made in heaven.  The most notable and comically genius part of the show being the sheep herding scene. Never have sheep played by people with shoes for feet seemed so realistic.

The story is a tangled loop of love triangles, misunderstanding, and deception. Rosalind (EM Williams) loves Orlando (Shaban Dar), that is clear, but the real chemistry is between Rosalind and Celia (Isobel Coward). The cousins are extremely loyal friends, but it seemed as if there could be a greater love and relationship underlying. It was almost disappointing that this was not explored further. EM Williams steals the show with their strong and mesmerising portrayal of Rosalind. Although there were some sexual undertones ultimately the characters are innocent beings. What they all have in common is they seek love, acceptance, and belonging.

It is obvious that great passion and care has been put into this adaptation. The cast excel in this show which turns a timeless classic into a fresh new story. However, there are parts of the script that could have benefited from being condensed and it would not have impacted the plot. Despite this it was an engaging performance that is committed to staying true to the modern values of Northern Broadsides.

Runs until 26th February 2022.

The Reviews Hub Score

captivating, and stylish.

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The North West team is under the editorship of John Roberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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