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Review: As You Like It, Red Rose Chain, Jimmy’s Farm, Wherstead, to August 27

PUBLISHED: 11:05 29 July 2017 | UPDATED: 11:05 29 July 2017

Emma Swan, Jack Heydon, Ryan Penny, Darren Latham and Fizz Waller in Red Rose Chain's As You Like It. Photo: Bill Jackson

Emma Swan, Jack Heydon, Ryan Penny, Darren Latham and Fizz Waller in Red Rose Chain's As You Like It. Photo: Bill Jackson

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What I hate about reviewing theatre in the forest is, more often than not, I can’t tell you about the bits that make it so special. I’ll leave it at wrestling, singing goats, lion boxing and moustaches.

Darren Latham as Duke Senior and Emma Swan as Jacques in Red Rose Chain's As You Like It. Photo: Bill JacksonDarren Latham as Duke Senior and Emma Swan as Jacques in Red Rose Chain's As You Like It. Photo: Bill Jackson

The surprises director Joanna Carrick packs in are a big part of the fun. And this was fun, with Shakespeare’s classic rom-com given a rootin’ tootin’ cowboy makeover. It sounds strange, but it works.

Duke Frederick banishes Duke Senior, taking everything he owns. Rosalind, Duke Senior’s daughter, is exiled too and takes refuge in the Forest of Arden with her cousin Celia, Duke Frederick’s daughter.

There Rosalind and Orlando, who has his own family problems; and the people they meet get tangled in a game of love and mistaken identity. Casting is everything and Carrick has struck gold in Fizz Waller (playing Rosalind, among others), Ryan Penny (Orlando and others), Emma Swan (chiefly Celia), Darren Latham (Touchstone and three others) and Jack Heydon (Silvius and more).

Ian the ferret, as himself, deserves special mention. He truly transcended the role and I expect big things in his future.

Darren Latham as Touchstone and Emma Swan as Celia in Red Rose Chain's As You Like It. Photo: Bill JacksonDarren Latham as Touchstone and Emma Swan as Celia in Red Rose Chain's As You Like It. Photo: Bill Jackson

Each was engaging, bouncing off each other and the audience who didn’t let a touch of rain dampen their spirits.

The transition between all 15 characters was smooth and at times hilarious; especially in the penultimate scene when the plot demands virtually everybody make an appearance.

At no point are you, unlike poor Orlando, confused about who’s who either. There’s some slapstick and fight scenes, all choreographed really well, quite a bit of audience interaction including a sing-a-long and lots of laugh out loud moments.

Don’t worry purists, the play never veers into farce or panto and respects the original text. Everything that happens is character driven.

The set, designed by Heydon, was beautiful; with the cottage looking like it had been there forever. The costumes were fun and the music fit really well with the Shakespearean shenanigans.

With villains to boo, heroes to cheer and couples to root for – although I give Silvius and Phebe six months, Touchstone and Audrey less – this will appeal to all ages; definitely in my top three theatre in the forest experiences.

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What I hate about reviewing theatre in the forest is, more often than not, I can’t tell you about the bits that make it so special. I’ll leave it at wrestling, singing goats, lion boxing and moustaches.

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Theatre in the Forest returns to Jimmy’s Farm as Shakespeare meets the wild west (with a dash of Richard Curtis) in Red Rose Chain’s As You Like It.

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