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Nicky Allpress

Review: AS YOU LIKE IT at Arundel and Ladbroke Grove

Shakespeare in the Squares A festival vibe infuses Tatty Hennessy’s family friendly production of As You Like It in some of London’s most beautiful Squares this summer. Her talented young cast bring one of Shakespeare’s happiest plays to life in a way that children should first experience his work: fun, fresh and totally accessible. So, grab a godchild or nephew and catch it where you can.

My heart soared to see so many young children in the audience giggling amongst the trees as the vibrant young cast told the story of Rosalind and her bestie, a totally devoted cousin called Celia, who run away and hide in the woods (apt settings throughout this tour of London’s greenest Squares) from Celia’s mother, the Bad Duchess. With the Good Duchess (both good and bad played by Julia Righton) already camped out in the forest surrounded by an array of new radical feminist minds, all putting the world to rights with positivity and optimistic spirits, Rosalind’s new love Orlando finds a wealth of new friends all willing to give him advice in love – including Rosalind herself in the guise of a boy called Ganymede. 

Katharine Moraz is lovably kooky as she begins her gender transformation in the familiar Shakespearean tradition of hiding her secret love. She’s a super cute nerd with a vocal delivery that rings with such sweet clarity that even the youngest spectators follow this heroines plot, sharing her highs and lows as she works it all out with them, her onlooking mentors.

Jack Brett, all eager in his flares, is an Orlando young enough to make the kids empathise, matching his comedic timing as plucky Orlando with physical humour. His wrestling match with Charles the Wrestler (a nicely done comic turn from Lamin Touray, towering over him in a stretchy red onesie) is brilliantly staged by fight director, Yarit Dor, with the action getting VERY close the audience, watched over by a smitten Rosalind. An adorable pair of lovesick hippies. Brett draws in the kids with his practice love letters, not only placing them amongst the trees but giving them out to delighted little boys in the front row who were lapping up their involvement: “hang thou there” Brett requests, and they willingly become Orlando’s wing-men for the night.

Comfort Fabian is the warm and fluffy buddy every girl needs. Tatty Hennessey has brought out the best in a genuine connection between her Celia and Katharine Moraz's Rosalind, one of the sweetest friendships in all of Shakespeare’s plays that never fails to warm the soul.

Gifted musically, this company break out in a funked up versions of 60’s and 70’s classics, nostalgia for mum and dad too. Perhaps the highlight of this is Emily Stonelake’s pitch perfect vocals which are a dream, her Phoebe wooing the crowds as she takes Ganymede’s insults (“sell while you can, you are not for all markets!”) and shares the impact with the audience who delight in her incredulity.

Sydney K Smith entertains as Celia’s companion Touchstone, and spirits rise as he meets Jodie Jacobs who impresses as a lovably cheeky Audrey, another gorgeous songstress. Stanton Plummer-Cambridge switches between villainous brother and camp as a row of festival tents, Le Beau, with dexterity and Sian Martin shows versatility as she switches from Jacques melancholic musing through Denis and William with clever costume switching, and back again.

There’s a clever simplicity in the design by Emily Stuart with a big vintage trunk place up stage centre seeming to symbolise the heart of both the Court and the Forest, framed by colourful psychedelic rags. What more could a family want their young folk experience during this barmy summer? Act fast though, only 10 more night to catch this lovely production.