Small cast and simple set serves up a splendid night of Shakespeare
A Sun-kissed, midsummer’s evening in upstate Gloucestershire. But this was no dream.
Beneath a cloudless sky, among the sleepy ruins of Hailes Abbey, local heroes Rain or Shine Theatre once again did what they do best: serve up a sparkling presentation of one of Shakespeare’s renowned comedies with only a minimal, but remarkably versatile cast.
Making his directorial debut with R&S, along with a few new cast members, enterprising Jonathan Legg fashioned a highly amusing take on this rustic tale of camaraderie, courtiers and country bumpkins.
Less is very often more in live theatre, and on this occasion R&S settled for possibly their smallest and simplest set ever: a plain grey wall and a single door, with only a few hanging plants tossed over it at appropriate moments to represent the forest itself.
Most notably, a whiff of genderequality had crept into this production, with Duke Frederick the chief casualty. The usurper had himself been usurped by the tyrannical Duchess Frederique, played with considerable conviction by newcomer Helen Fullerton, who doubled as her sister, the Duchess Senior, summarily banished to the Forest of Arden.
With their leader gone, the remaining characters were left to wonder whether to leave or remain.
As it turned out, Orlando and his gang jumped ship, to regroup in the forest and devise some means of re-establishing the status quo, as well as deciding who gets hitched to whom to ensure a happy ending.
Intermittently, it strayed dangerously close to pure pantomime. Even a requisite dame showed up; emceeing on-stage proceedings, Anthony Young stole the whole caboodle as the articulate jester Touchstone, but capped an all-round performance with a hilarious turn as delightfully wimpish shepherdess Phoebe. Spirited Pippa Meekings ran him a close second as the feisty Rosalind-cum-ganymede. We were even urged to respond to a few musical prompt. But it all provided further proof positive that, from Rain or Shine, one thing is guaranteed: a splendid night out at a jolly good show.
For details of As You Like It, visit rainorshine.co.uk