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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

Archant

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 Jackson Darren 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 Jackson Darren 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.

Eastern Angles Christmas show has a reputation for creating affectionate spoofs of cultural classics. Arts editor Andrew Clarke spoke to producer Tim Bell about having fun with The Ladykillers.

DanceEast commissioned a real Christmas treat from choreographer Jane Hackett when they asked her to develop her idea of turning Mary Norton’s much-loved children’s novel The Borrowers into a dance-theatre production.

The Ladykillers is one of British cinema’s golden classics – an Ealing comedy that appears to be rosy on the outside but as soon as you dig beneath the surface its humour is as black as coal. This Christmas Eastern Angles and Shanty Theatre have decided to give this dark caper movie a modern and a local make-over.

If you haven’t sent Santa your Christmas list yet, pop tickets for this festive-fuelled fairytale on it first.

It’s not Christmas without a visit to Red Rose Chain’s The Avenue Theatre. We spoke to writer and director Joanna Carrick and actors Emma Swan, Darren Latham and Ryan Penny about The Elves and The Shoemaker.

A great panto starts from the moment the audience enters the auditorium and starts looking at the set laid out before it. Arts editor Andrew Clarke talks to designer David Shields about the art of creating a larger-than-life panto world

DanceEast is staging the premiere of a new dance-theatre production of the children’s classic The Borrowers. Arts editor Andrew Clarke spoke to director Jane Hackett about putting dancers in the middle of an animated world

Charlotte Smith-Jarvis says Greg Davies, live in Ipswich as part of the You Magnificent Beast tour, is one of the funniest stand-ups she’s seen.

Robert Wright throughly enjoys Dick Whittington, this year’s panto offering at Bury St Edmunds Theatre Royal

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