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Review of Arden Creatures at The Cockpit Theatre

Arden CreaturesFootfall Theatre is an award-winning company which aims to illuminate the female voice across the canon of Shakespeare’s works. Set in the Arden Forest of Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’, ‘Arden Creatures’ deconstructs and reassembles the words of the original play to create a new story with an emphasis on sex, gender and the animalistic qualities of human nature.

The Cockpit Theatre, with its studio style, provides a versatile performance space. Anna Driftmier’s design made use of a thrust staging, with features including two large cages, a selection of blocks and a variety of bunting; this simple set made scene transitions smooth and slick. Jack Weir’s lighting design provided the colour of the forest, with an effective use of occasional spot light and an overall warm quality to the summer day. The focus of the lighting also helped to achieve the interior nature of the hotel setting that was being portrayed, displaying the interchangeable nature of human existence.

The company of four worked effectively as an ensemble to keep the pace at a steady speed. Freddy Sawyer played a rugged Orlando, not quite a Romeo-esque portrayal, but rather a contemplating character with masculine qualities. He was joined by Hugh Stubbins as Jaques; a somewhat cheeky chappy whose comical expressions were perfectly timed and whose reactions were en point. Stubbins built an excellent rapport with the audience, suitably so for the intimacy of the performance space. The two lads of the piece used cockerel-type movement to symbolise their masculinity, which was both comical and appropriate for the style.

Charlotte Quinney gave a solid performance as Celia, and managed to convey a sense of innocence in the character without falling into the trap of the damsel-in-distress. The relationship that progressed with Stubbins perfectly captured the subtle comedy of the asymmetrical relationship, through a clever use of distance and levels. Olivia Emden played a superb Rosalind. Her movement was free and gentle at the start and yet she was able to transform her entire physical nature when disguised as a male, hinting at the pantomime male lead that’s so often portrayed by females. The two female actors were generous towards each other throughout the performance, highlighting an excellent, secure friendship. Along with Stubbins, Emden created a solid storyteller role, letting the audience in with her for support.

As movement director, Emden created some moments of magic, with waltzing, wrestling and a bit of tango, flowing along with the gentle natural wind of the forest. These moments of dance interlude allowed the play to flow beautifully, with the entrances and exits in each corner of the thrust allowing a never-empty stage.

The action was accompanied by music from Andrew Gorman and Josh Middleton, which was timed suitably with the text and added a multi-sensual layer to the piece which worked particularly well with the movement and dance.

All in all: an engaging, solid production, with mostly strong performances throughout. Perhaps a little more continuity between the actors themselves would have helped even further, but the energy as a whole elicited the farcical element of ‘As You Like It’ whilst challenging the audience’s perception of gender, sex and sexuality.

4 stars

Review by Joseph Winer

A Re-telling of As You Like It, Using Only Shakespeare’s Text.
Directed by Isabelle Kettle
Set in a crumbling 19th century hotel, Arden Creatures is an otherworldly story that takes us straight to the heart of Shakespeare’s exploration of love and gender in ‘As You Like It’. Using only original text and live music, Footfall Theatre brings you a re-telling of one of Shakespeare’s most subversive and irreverent comedies. A brilliantly funny and thrilling tale of four lovers confronted with the limitations of their gender and who try, with mixed results, to escape the conventional love story.

With live accompaniment from acclaimed Klezmer band Don Kipper, this production promises to cement Footfall Theatre’s reputation for subverting and confronting our assumptions about gender in Shakespeare – pumping fresh life and energy into classic stories.

Fresh from their sell-out production ‘Lear’s Daughters’, Footfall Theatre return with their latest show promising an evening of enthralling irreverence and fun.

Cast: Charlotte Quinney Celia
Freddy Sawyer Orlando
Hugh Stubbins Jaques
Olivia Emden Rosalind
Musicians Andrew Gorman and Josh Middleton

Creatives: Producer Leyla Mclennan
Director Isabelle Kettle
Designer Anna Driftmier
Lighting Designer Jack Wier
Movement director Olivia Emden
Verse Worker Charlotte Quinney
Creative Associate Henry Bauckham

Company Information: Footfall Theatre is an all-female theatre company with a passion for Shakespeare’s texts and collaborative theatre. We know that a lot of theatre makers tackle Shakespeare. What make us different is our emphasis on illuminating the female voice and gender within his plays. The company won an Owle Schreame Award for innovation in classical theatre following the Edinburgh run of Lear’s Daughters.

“0ne of the most striking and innovative interpretations of Shakespeare that I’ve seen”

★★★★★ LondonTheatre1

“This is a fantastic adaptation…they have the audience’s undivided attention” ★★★★ Plays to See

Listings Information
Arden Creatures with Shakespeare’s original text
The Cockpit Theatre
Gateforth Street
London NW8 8EH
23 Aug – 25 Aug 2015
Tickets £12 & £10 concessions 7pm
Box Office: 020 7258 2925

Tuesday 25th August 2015


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