Review: Theatre Group Presents ‘As You Like It’ @ Garden Court 12/3/22

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Funnily enough, the last Shakespeare play I saw was Theatre Group’s 2019 freshers show: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (another comedy set in a forest), and it’s wonderful to see the evolution the society and its members have undertaken in that time. The directing team led by Olivia Grindon (assisted by Mika Woods and Cicely Donnett, the latter also acting as show coordinator) treated the material excellently and I gather made quite significant cuts to the text; even with these cuts, the story still flowed in most places and felt balanced. Unfortunately the central romance felt a little underdeveloped, and the secondary plot lines felt a little stunted however, I doubt this would’ve been helped by including more of the original.

Adam Wilson opens the play with an engaging and delightfully endearing portrayal of Orlando who only improved as the night went on and the general proceedings picked up steam. Orlando is joined by his elder brother Oliver (Fletcher Stafford) who played a brilliantly flimsy, tongue-in-cheek masculinity against Wilson’s more comfortable floridity.

Orlando’s love for Rosalind is made only more believable with Eleanor Bogle’s spectacular performance; Bogle succeeds in doing what few actors can: she makes Shakespeare sound completely natural. Her complete understanding of the text and excellent comedic timing allowed her to have the Bard in the palm of her hand and the additions to the text she had felt quite at home. Wilson and Bogle’s combined comic talent was a joy to watch in the admittedly few scenes they have together, with a chemistry that perhaps didn’t sizzle, but certainly seeped a wholesome, contented air.

Pulling away from the central couple, Jacan Chaplais makes an excellent comic foil, the eccentric body language he adds to his character’s confident yet singsong voice makes for a delightful performance and his changing of the seasons had me nearly choking with laughter. Chaplais found excellent scene partners in Jago Laws-Robinson’s Audrey and Felix Collins’ Corin all of whom bounced off each other brilliantly. The other light trilogy (Issy Stevenson as Jaques, Sophie Gardner as Aimens, Cerys May as Duke Senior) made excellent additions to the forest and added to an excellently rounded out ensemble cast. Though I haven’t been able to mention them all, I would like to give congratulations to the entire cast and production team on an excellent show and encourage you to get excited to see what TG get up to next!

Theatre Group’s next show, And Then There Were None, will be running at the Annex Theatre from the 11th-14th May. You can book tickets here:

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