As You Like It.
St. Martin’s Church, Colchester.
Fledgling Theatre Company TWAS are made up of local, professionally trained actors, and, as their name stands for The World’s A Stage, it’s fitting that their first Shakespeare is As You Like It. Do I need to see yet another production of As You Like It? Well, when it’s as innovative as this one, the answer is a resounding yes! A good Shakespeare throws new light on a classic, and director Tom Foster’s innovative concept and direction, set in the modern day, with the forest of Arden being a festival setting, and the cast a community of travellers, revealed new interpretations and character revelations. Nicely abridged, with the tiresome Touchstone being eliminated, this is a very entertaining production.
For me, the success of this play depends on the relationship between Orlando and Rosalind, and here the interplay between the excellent Roisin Keogh and Alec Clements was beautifully convincing, particularly in the second half, when, as Ganymede, she provides him with some lessons in love! Charlotte Luxford perhaps could have brought out a more cynical side of Celia, but she has wonderful stage presence, and there is an astonishing Jaques brought to life by Thomas Edwards, his melancholy being more of a bipolar condition, the “All the world’s a stage” speech being delivered as a stand-up piece- wonderfully effective. Richard Conrad is excellent in a variety of roles, his short shorts as Silvius deserving a credit of their own! Joseph Alexander is hugely impressive as the two Dukes, and Matthew Jewson a great contrast as Oliver and Corin. Perhaps most astonishing of all is Ben Powell serving fierce shepherdess as Phoebe, a bold piece of casting that works sensationally.
The play itself takes a while to get going, and it’s not until Shakespeare gets in the holiday mood at Arden does it really take off, and the first act was a little under energised when I saw it, and the acoustics of this tricky venue sometimes affected the delivery. The music by Adam Abo-Henriksen is celebratory and atmospheric, but in places would benefit from being cut in half. However, this is a highly enjoyable production, and I hope it can find more performances- ideally on the Festival circuit, especially Latitude!