Small cast and sim­ple set serves up a splen­did night of Shake­speare

Gloucestershire Echo - - NEWS - Si­mon Lewis

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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

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