An inclusive, refreshing and lively adaptation of Shakespeare’s As You Like It, is being staged in London’s brand new West End Theatre, Soho Place. With a cast full of wonderfully talented stars that will make you forget the freezing cold weather outside, and transport you to the sunny Forest of Arden.

Credit: Manuel Harlan

Shakespeare’s As You Like It, has been adapted and directed by Josie Rourke. It is one of the Bard’s many comedies and tells the story of Rosalind (Rose Ayling-Ellis) and Orlando (Alfred Enoch), who both must leave their court lives behind in order to find freedom. They end up independently finding themselves in the countryside, with a choir of goats and all (…at least in this version!)

I’ll be honest: I’m no Shakespeare expert, in fact, as someone who speaks English as a second language, Middle English can be intimidating. So I was quite pleased as the play began, to find screens all around the auditorium with not just the lyrics to the songs, but also captions to the entire play, which this immigrant greatly appreciated.

All performances of this production are captioned, with the captions being fully incorporated within the performance. Actors react to and command the screens during the scenes. Another difference in this version of the play is the inclusion of BSL (British Sign Language), which is seamlessly integrated. 

But inclusivity isn’t the only reason to see this play. With an incredibly talented cast making the text their own, delivering every line with freshness, I’d also like to give Michael Bruce some recognition. Bruce is the composer and on-stage pianist for the show. He continuously guides the story with the musical track, blending the songs and the sounds (which are also displayed on the captions), whilst playing a character in his own right who interacts, reacts and is fully incorporated into the plot.

The story progresses quickly, and the cross-shaped stage designed by Robert Jones adds to that movement, allowing the cast to come and go and never make you feel like you’ve been in a scene too long. Despite its simplicity, the passage of time and changing of locations are clearly felt.

Credit: Manuel Harlan

Another highlight is the costumes which were co-designed by Jones and Poppy Hall, these are also done with simplicity. They are a delightful mix of theatrecraft and charity shop chic, which left me itching to try and find some similar pieces during my next shopping trip. 

It is impossible to pick which performances to highlight, out of so many incredible stars, with so much charisma and energy. But the relationship that stood out to me wasn’t a romantic one. I was delighted to watch Rosalind (Leah Harvey – who I was lucky enough to see in Emilia – my favorite play) and Celia’s (Rose Ayling-Ellis) sisterly relationship play out and evolve. The connection between the two characters, the support and how they grow together is lovely to watch and it is so refreshing to see these kinds of relationships being highlighted even in a play written in 1599. I only wish there had been time for some more development on Jacques (Martha Plimpton), who is such a delight to watch whenever she is on stage.

As someone who mainly watches musicals, I really enjoyed the ballads, and as a curiosity (thanks, Google), As You Like It, is the Shakespearean play with the most songs. Therefore it is not only known as a Pastoral Comedy, but also a Musical Comedy. Lost In Theatreland reviews are also knowledge!

Whilst Shakespeare may not be my first choice when choosing a show, between the wonderfully diverse cast, the careful and thoughtful inclusivity of this production and the addition of music and songs, if more productions follow in Rouke’s footsteps, I could easily become a convert.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

2 Star Review 3 Star Review 4 Star Review 5 Star Review 2022 2023 Adaptation Almeida Cabaret Camden Fringe Cast Announcement Christmas Comedy Dance Drag Edinburgh Fringe Edinburgh Fringe Interviews Fringe Immersive Interviews Jukebox Musical LGBTQIA+ Lyric Hammersmith Manchester Musical New Musical News New Wimbledon Theatre North West Off West End Park Theatre Play Review Revival Richmond Theatre Round Up Royal Court Theatre Shakespeare Show Announcement Show Recommendations Soho Theatre Southwark Playhouse Touring Production VAULT Festival West End

    The infamous Sh!t Faced Showtime are back in London with a festive edition, they have taken Dickens’ classic and put a drunken spin on it. The formula is the same as other iterations of the Shi!t Faced shows, one member of the cast has been boozing, and this time it is John Milton who plays Scrooge. Before the show, half a bottle of Jim Beam, some wine, and beer have been consumed in the previous 4 hours. The rest of the cast, try to keep the show on track, also aided by James Murfitt as the compere, Charles Dickens. The … More A PISSEDMAS CAROL – REVIEW – LEICESTER SQUARE
    Spine-tingling yet heart-warming, Mark Gatiss’s retelling of A Christmas Carol truly encapsulates the haunting atmosphere of a Victorian ghost story, balanced out with enough humour so as to capture the festive season. Led by Keith Allen as Scrooge, with Peter Forbes as Marley, this show is perfect for Christmas viewing. The set design by Paul Wills is instantly captivating, containing stacks of metal cabinets towering over the theatre, moveable by the cast to allow space for other central props like doors, beds and tables. In addition to this, the puppetry design by Matthew Forbes is incredibly clever, adding creepy elements to the show such … More A CHRISTMAS CAROL – REVIEW – ALEXANDRA PALACE
    The title of this winner of Theatre 503’s 2023 International Playwriting Award by Roxy Cook may seem like the set-up to a joke, but the narrative that unspools is instead an affectionate, gently barbed and at base quite sobering portrait of three ordinary souls (and one restless feline) adrift in modern Moscow. There is much affable, satirical back-and-forth commentary on the accepted myths & stereotypes of the Russian spirit & soul. Beset by the indignities of age, opportunism, graft, fatigue, the characters orbit one another, doomed to play out their roles in an unjust, predatory and saturnine universe. The play opens … More A WOMAN WALKS INTO A BANK – REVIEW – THEATRE503
    Peter Pan Goes Wrong first premiered in London at the Pleasance Theatre in 2013, and earlier this year the show made its Broadway debut. Now the production is back in the West End for the Christmas season. Following on from The Play That Goes Wrong, in this production, J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan is staged by the fictitious Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society and goes awry, disastrously so. The meta-comedy is filled with slapstick comedy, sometimes the humour may be predictable and silly, but it’s universally funny throughout – there is something for everyone here, and the laughs come thick and fast … More PETER PAN GOES WRONG – REVIEW – LYRIC THEATRE
    Drawing heavily from the classic canon of the British supernatural, HighTide’s trio of contemporary Gothic narratives uses traditional storytelling formats to address contemporary themes. Directed by Elayce Ismail, reverent musical interludes accompany tales of apparitions and nighttime conjurings that speak of women from the East of England. Unfortunately, the effect is less chilling and more lightweight, with conventional structures, predictable plot twists and an over-reliance on external forces to drive narrative shoring up some of the less relatable aspects of the genre. Nicola Werenowska’s The Beach House, perhaps the cleanest of the three tales, tells of a mother and daughter’s … More GHOST STORIES BY CANDLELIGHT – REVIEW – SAM WANAMAKER PLAYHOUSE

Leave a Reply