As You Like It - Watermill Theatre, Newbury
Sustainability, singing and Shakespeare. The Watermill’s latest creation is an enjoyable outdoor production of the rustic comedy As You Like It whilst embedding a serious environmental message.
As You Like It is not my favourite Shakespeare play. It is sort of similar to Midsummers Night's Dream just with not quite as many plot twists, but the company at the Watermill brought a fresh twist and new lease of life to the tale.
The team have done an excellent job at paring down the characters in clever ways with puppets and simplifying elements to make things clearer for a wider audience, all the while keeping the core elements, themes and motifs.
My boyfriend, who is less accustomed to Shakespeare, enjoyed the production and was grateful for a handy synopsis in the programme (as was I!). He said: “I felt the actors painted pictures in ways that weren’t just spoken.”
The multi-talented cast of singer/actors/musicians held the audience's attention for the two and a half hour production, weaving in and out of the tables during both prose and song.
Their clear and precise acting meant you didn’t need to understand every single word said and could lose yourself in the tone and emotion they evoked.
Some of the cast were stronger singers than others but this didn’t really matter when they sang in unison, all brimming with infectious energy and joy.
Led by Ned Rudkins-Stow’s sophisticated and youthful Orlando and Katherine Jack’s playfully powerful Rosalind, the cast had a variety of characters to keep you on your toes, but not too many to overwhelm you as many Shakespeare stories do.
Occasional tunes from Taylor Swift and The Beach Boys brought a modern twist and moments of unity from the cast who were often running off and on in different directions into the audience.
The set of which ranged from grungy rubbish tips and festival-like forest contrasted heavily and highlighted the main message of caring for the environment. The set was also created with minimal impact to the environment in mind, recycling and reusing materials and props.
You couldn’t help but grin at the ending of the production with Katherine Jack delivering a brilliant epilogue opening with “Women never get the epilogues but it’s 2021!”
Her words pulled together the modern take on an old play and left thoughts on environmental issues and equality resonating in your mind. This built to an infectious and empowering final number with the whole ensemble donning politically-driven t-shirts and placards.
The Watermill has managed to balance the tricky act of creating enjoyable entertainment whilst sending a powerful message.
As You Like It runs at the Watermill until Saturday, July 24.