As You Like It - Theatre ☆☆☆☆4
Showing from - Saturday, June 4, 2016 through till Sunday, June 5, 2016
Prescot Parish Church - Prescot, Merseyside
Johanna Roberts | Saturday, June 4, 2016
Summer’s here and the time is right for…open air theatre! And while, given the English summer, such ventures could be considered the triumph of hope over experience, my experience is that such experiences are infinitely rewarding.
MATE Productions' performance of As You Like It is well worth braving the weather for. Robyn Madison confidently treads the fine line between girlish innocence and steely determinationThe company, which is based in Knowsley and has links with Shakespeare North and the RSC, is truly a community company, with participants aged from 8 to 80 years old. But don’t let that fool you into thinking they are anything other than completely professional in both their approach and their execution of the play.
Rosalind’s father, banished by his brother, Duke Frederick, now lives with his followers in the Forest of Arden. Rosalind, meanwhile, is much beloved of Celia, her cousin, and so remains in court, much to the displeasure of her uncle. When Rosalind meets Orlando, a younger brother who has been disinherited by his older brother, Oliver, it is love at first sight. When Duke Frederick banishes Rosalind, she and Celia run off together, accompanied by Touchstone the jester, to the forest, with Rosalind dressed as a boy, Ganymede. There they meet Orlando, also banished, who doesn’t recognise Rosalind in her male attire, and so begins the weaving together of various tales of love and mistaken identify.
While, with its setting in the forest, the play lends itself to outdoor productions, it is one of Shakespeare’s more difficult offerings. Much hinges on the character of Rosalind: if she comes across as too weak, the whole play falls apart, but if she’s overly controlling, the audience are alienated and the play lacks charm. Here, however, Robyn Madison confidently treads the fine line between girlish innocence and steely determination. Similarly successful is Faye Draper as Celia, who gives her character sufficient depth and breadth to avoid her simply being Rosalind’s sidekick.
Francesco La Rocca and Alex Ferguson are excellent as Touchstone and Jaques respectively, providing the counterbalance to the romance and comedy of the play while retaining the audience’s sympathy.
The minor roles are played with energy and conviction – the night we saw it, Eryl Lloyd Parry was commanding as the Duke Senior, while Kirsty Taylor, Rachael Reason, Mike Mackenzie and Tom Martin all did well as the rustics. And a special mention to Vera Farrell, who plays Orlando’s servant Anna (Adam). Costumes and musicians are of a similarly professional standard.
Overall, the production is engaging and exuberant, charming and insightful. Grab a picnic, wrap up well, and treat yourself to a fabulous evening.
UPCOMING PERFORMANCES: Prescot Woodland Theatre, Knowlsey on Saturday 30th and Sunday 31st July at 2pm and 6.30pm
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