I am slightly confused as I walk up the hill to Racks Close, I can hear German 1930s music playing, I thought it was As You Like It tonight, not Cabaret! The confusion is cleared up when I sit down with my programme. Director Caroline Devlin has chosen to set this production in 1930s Europe, aligning the banished Duke Senior’s court with the liberal ideas of the Weimar Republic and the ruling Duke Frederick’s court with the fascists that sought to control individual ideals.
The play begins with a decadent cabaret at Duke Senior’s court before he is banished to the Forest of Arden. Guildford’s answer to Sally Bowles, Matt Pinches, could wear anything with legs like that and during the course of the play he pretty much does, as Adam the faithful family servant and Touchstone the cabaret clown. When the action switches to the Forest of Arden the 1930s theme seems to be forgotten about and the action settles back into an idyllic English woodland setting. Racks Close could not be more perfect for this, a warm wooded glade lit up with twinkling lanterns hanging from the trees. It was certainly a lot more comfortable here!
The central character Rosalind disguises herself as a man when she escapes Duke Senior’s court for exile in the Forest. She falls in love with Orlando (James Sheldon), son of the Banished Duke, and woos him while pretending to be a boy. Celia, the daughter of Duke Frederick, falls in love at first sight with Oliver (Tom Richardson), Orlando’s brother. The shepherdess Phebe (Sarah Gobran) sets her sights on the disguised Ganymede but settles for her former lover Silvius when she discovers Ganymede is really Rosalind. Like most Shakespearean comedies a lot of the humour involves disguise and mistaken identity. A relatively small cast of eight inevitably requires some doubling up of smaller roles, I presume this was why Audrey the goat herder was played by Corey Montague-Sholay, there just were not any more females available. I know gender blind casting is very fashionable, but I found this rather confusing, if he is a woman why isn’t he dressed like one? I would have found it less confusing if he were Andy the goat herder and in a same-sex relationship. Happily, everyone finds their perfect partner and the play finishes with the four couples preparing for their wedding days.
The whole production is held together by an exquisite performance by Natasha Rickman as Rosalind / Ganymede. The setting is enchanting, enhanced by Neil Irish’s fabulous set designs. I was so incredibly pleased to be back in Guildford on this beautiful summer evening enjoying live theatre at last.
Review by Sally Knipe
AS YOU LIKE IT is Shakespeare’s gloriously sunny comedy: a celebration of human nature’s desire to forgive and forget, to love and to laugh.
To escape the tyrannous Duke Frederick’s reign, Rosalind escapes with her cousin and a cheeky jester into the Forest of Arden, a playground of hopes and dreams. Away from the stifling court, this merry trio discover that the outdoors have more to offer than just refuge, and where freedom of thought liberates, so too can romance flourish for each and every one.
HILDEGARD NEIL & ROSALIND BLESSED are the voice of the goddess Hymen
NATASHA RICKMAN – Rosalind
RACHEL SUMMERS – Celia
SARAH GOBRAN – Frederick / Phebe / Jaques
JAMES SHELDON – Orlando
TOM RICHARDSON – Silvius / Oliver
COREY MONTAGUE-SHOLAY – Amiens / Le Beau / Audrey
ROBERT MASKELL – Duke Senor / Corin
MATT PINCHES – Touchstone / Adam
Director & Adaptor – CAROLINE DEVLIN
Set & Costume Designer – NEIL IRISH
Sound Designer & Composer – MATT EATON
Choreographer – CHARLOTTE CONQUEST
Fight Director – ROGER BARTLETT
Assistant Director – INDIANA LOWN-COLLINS
Assistant Designer – ANETT BLACK
Company Stage Manager – BETH MANN
Deputy Stage Manager – CJ MITCHELL
Assistant Stage Manager – KIM MUNROE
Monday 19 July – Saturday 31 July