Review: As You Like It – as you’ve never seen it before

Photo: Andrew Billington
With dances, songs and even a little bit of wrestling, this modern Shakespeare rom-com offers something for everyone
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As You Like It is Shakespeare’s love letter to his Elizabethan audience, at the time and today. 

Northern Broadsides recreates, revitalises and reinvents the story for modern audiences while it stays true to its original Shakespearean roots. 

The play explores the journey of Rosalind played by EM Williams and her loving cousin Celia, played by Isobel Coward, who find themselves wrongly accused of treason and exiled from their corrupt royal court by the wicked Duke Frederick (Ali Gadema). 

Rosalind and Celia’s chemistry is a delight to see and both performers effortlessly bring both characters to life as they embark on a journey of identity and self-discovery in the Forest of Arden. 

Photo: Andrew Billington

Coupled with this is the journey of another exiled royal Orlando (Manchester’s own Shaban Darr), whose own romantic quest leads him to the forest where his beloved Rosalind awaits.

But not all is as Orlando expects. 

The play boasts an impressive cast of actors whose talents are all on show to see with Bailey Brook, Gemma Dobson, Claire Hackett, Ali Gadema and Jo Patmore all showing their acting versatility by playing dual roles with Patmore, who particularly impresses with her amazing singing voice that blows the audience away. 

Photo: Andrew Billington

A notable show stealer is the character of Touchstone, played by the excellent Joe Morrow, who brings both new style and substance to the role and drags the character into the 21st century with a RuPaul style twist.

His command of Shakespeare’s language effortlessly translates his intent to modern audiences that makes Touchstone always a welcome presence on stage.  

The set design by E.M. Parry is innovative and works wonders at making the small stage feel exceptionally larger, with the Forest of Arden’s trees being impressively built with coatracks that builds a unique atmosphere befitting the mythical world of the forest.  

Sound director James Earls-Davis and lighting director Kieron Johnson both expertly use sounds of nature and dramatic lighting that brings the nature of the forest to life on stage. 

Photo: Andrew Billington

The pace of the play never wavers, even with the scene transitions that change so quickly, with crisp choreography directed by Jamaal Burkmar that means the play never wastes a second of time and allows the characters to be livelier and more expressive to the audience. 

And while the plot of the play can appear confusing at times, the distinctly British humour, the acting and presentation elevates the production and offers audiences an exceptional modern experience that unites the past with the present.  

Photo: Andrew Billington

With dances, songs and even a little bit of wrestling (with fight director Bethan Clark bringing a fight scene that befits a wrestling match from WWE), this modern Shakespeare rom-com offers something for everyone. 

So, if you want a break from tragedy, your harrowing Hamlets and melancholic Macbeths then get yourself a ticket and come on down to The Lowry and allow yourself to be transported to the Forest of Arden. 

It’s As You Like It as you’ve never seen it before. 

As You Like It is at The Lowry until Saturday 12th March. Tickets are available here.

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