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As You Like It

William Shakespeare

Northern Broadsides

Theatr Clwyd, Mold

April 13-16, 2022; 2 hrs 30 mins

Joe Morrow as Touchstone in Northern Broadsides’ As You Like It
Joe Morrow as Touchstone in Northern Broadsides’ As You Like It. All pics: Andrew Billington

Does this multi-cultural, gender-diverse, disability-friendly production bring As You Like It to life? There are plenty of positive characteristics to this Northern Broadsides production, the company's first full show in the wake of the pandemic. Broadsides made sure the show went ahead despite having two cast members laid low by Covid, one replacement having a mere three hours to prepare. The second half in particular on press night was lively, imaginative and engaging and Rosalind, played by EM Williams was great.

Shakespeare’s theme is of a comic love story set in a forest, with people banished to the woods to escape personal conflict or a capricious ruler. This is an acerbic political comment on Tudor times and perhaps modern times too, given the autocratic ruler of a certain east European superpower. Shakespeare plays around with gender and status too, as courtiers fall in love with common shepherds and girls fall for a boy who is actually a girl. A forest as a place for freedom of expression, away from the strictures of the court, perhaps? Of course, love triumphs in the end, and people change for the better. Lets hope so for real life too...

Broadsides' production takes this playing around with time, gender, class and sexuality further, and in doing so is perhaps guilty of over-complicating the plot, leaving some elements a little confusing. I failed to see the rationale behind the majority of the cast wearing clothes of a different gender during the final scene, for example. I understand a desire to celebrate diversity and accept people for what they want to be, but the mere wearing of another sex's clothes needs more to make it both pointed and funny. .

Having said that I did enjoy the strong female characterisations and the cast's crowd-pleasing attempts to draw responses from the audience. There are fine comedy moments – particularly the goat-involved scene in the first act. It was also a pleasure to hear some of the Bard’s most famous lines, though a shame that sometimes the dialogue was difficult to hear and actors had their back to the audience.

Tickets and information here


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