Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre – until the 28 July 2018
This latest production at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre is delightful from beginning to end, making for a perfect summer treat.
There is plenty to enjoy in Max Webster’s glorious production of William Shakespeare’s comedy in which the madness is fully embraced by all of the cast, leading to some wonderful characterisations that keep the audience thoroughly entertained throughout.
As You Like it predominantly takes place in the Forest of Arden, where Duke Senior, his daughter Rosalind, her cousin Celia and Orlando have all been banished. From there chaos ensues as Rosalind tests the depth of Orlando’s love for her by pretending to be a man named Ganymeade – but leads to a lot of confusion for everybody involved.
Webster’s production is glorious to watch throughout, directed with great wit, energy and joy that allows the audience to fully embrace the characters and the relationships formed. This sense of joy that penetrates through the production is helped by Naomi Dawson’s beautiful but environmentally conscious simplistic set design which embraces the surroundings of Regent’s Park to create a lively atmosphere.
There are so many scenes that stand out in the production, not least the excellently choreographed wrestling scene that drew plenty of laughs as Charles and Orlando try to get the better of each other. But it is also a production that really highlights and captures the relationships between characters well – in particular Touchstone (Danny Kirrane) and Audrey (Amy Booth-Steel) are delightful to watch and the unrequited love between Silvius (Jacade Simpson) and Phebe (Joanne McGuiness) adds additional moments of humour (I did feel sorry for the teddy bear at one point however!).
Performance wise, all of the cast are lively and completely embrace their roles to the full. Particular standouts are Danny Kirrane’s brilliantly hilarious performance as Touchstone – his bold confidence allows him to take full control of the scenes to hilarious effect, while Maureen Beattie as the somewhat gloomy Jacques also makes a strong impression. As Orlando, Edward Hogg is charismatic and likeable excellently matched for Olivia Vinall’s sweet and clownish Rosalind, together their chemistry is endearing and believable.
If there is a slight minor flaw in the production, the music and songs are lovely to break up the scenes but (particularly in the second act) it tends to slow down the story and can take the energy out of the production – but it is still a lovely thing to do to make to production unique.
Overall, this is a lovely summer treat at the Open Air Theatre, working well in the context of its surroundings of Regent’s Park. Hilarious, touching and well worth a visit.