Theatre Review: As You Like It - St. Pauls Church, Covent Garden, London ✭✭✭✭

As You Like It 

St. Pauls Church, Covent Garden 

Once again Iris theatre brings us a delightful promenade of Shakespeare, this time in the guise of As You Like It.

Set in the hidden gem of a 17th century garden of St Pauls Church we are greeted by smiling staff with umbrellas. Once kitted out with ponchos and plastic coverings, provided by the theatre company, with the old adage ‘the show must go on’ ringing in our ears, we are led to the garden.

Soon we are ushered back toward the main entrance and the show begins.

Shakespeare’s As You Like it tells us the story of Duke Frederick usurping his older brother, Duke Senior, from his ducal rights and banishing him into exile, keeping his brothers daughter Rosalind as a companion for his own daughter Celia.

The same fate soon befalls Rosalind and she too is banished from the palace. Unable to bid her farewell Celia defies her father and follows Rosalind into the Forest of Arden, where Duke Senior resides.

Along their journey they come across a number of characters including Orlando de Boys, who has been dismissed by his older brother Oliver. A love story between Rosalind and Orlando soon follows.

Orlando, played by Joe Forte, has his own personal journey to make, leading to a variety of difficult situations. Forte brings a lot of charm to this role and gives off a boy next door, but with an edge, performance. He is very likable, with the audience on his side throughout, including a year 7 schoolboy who led the audience to shout ‘come on Orlando’ during a fighting scene.

Emily Tucker does a brilliant job as both Rosalind and her alias Ganymede, who she assumes when she is banished and decides to ‘become a man’. She is realistic as both characters, poised and pretty with a bite as Rosalind and robust and thoughtful as Ganymede.

Diana Kashlan, cast as Touchstone, is one of the highlights of the show. Although playing the fool, it is important to remember that Touchstone is not the typical clown jester that is often depicted in Shakespearean plays but one who makes many philosophical statements. Kashlan brings panache to this role and is full of energy and witty one liners. It is great to see her in a role which is usually played by men. She adds her own touch to the character and is able to pull off gestures which would otherwise seem out of place.

All the cast are a credit to the performance, for which Casting Director Gabriella should be praised, and for their efforts and professionalism through the rain they can only be commended. The cast also helped make the transition from one part of the set to another seem so easy and friendly. There are even opportunities to satisfy the hungry audience member as bread is shared in a scene.

It is impossible not to be amazed by the set, which is designed by Tessa Battisti. Great attention to detail has been made and there are plenty of surprises in the set and the play as a whole; in particular look out for the mystical cave, which transports you from the garden into the scenic church and for the dog with horns.

As You Like It makes for a magnificent evening with magic, love, music, sexual connotations, compassion and hilarity in abundance. I would definitely recommend it.

I would also like to thank all the staff for their hard work ensuring the rain did not detract from the performance.

4 out of 5 stars ✭✭✭✭

Performances run from June 28th - August 4th at 7.30pm, with Friday and weekend matinees at 230pm.

Review by Unsa Chaudri