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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.

In an adaption by acclaimed playwright Jessica Swale, who has had huge recent West End success with Nell Gwyn starring Gemma Arterton, Gallery Players present Thomas Hardy’s classic Victorian novel of love, pride and class with a charismatic, flawed female character at its centre.

Oxy and the Morons, by Paul Sirett, Mike Peters and Steve Allan Jones, New Wolsey Theatre, until October 21

From Co-Op Juniors productions and Linda Shipton’s School of Dancing to the Royal Ballet the professional dancer has come a long way. Now she is back with the latest tour by Rambert Dance Company.

The New Wolsey Theatre has a reputation for putting lots of great music in their shows. But, as Arts editor Andrew Clarke, discovers with Oxy and the Morons they are looking at whether the punk spirit can survive into middle age.

When foreign language plays are translated for the stage they usually end up as starchy period pieces with cut-glass accents. Arts editor Andrew Clarke spoke to writer Blake Morrison about making the classics much more egalitarian.

Far From The Madding Crowd is a Victorian classic but as David Henshall finds out a new stage version written by Olivier-award-winng Jessica Swale reveals it to be a story filled with surprisingly contemporary characters

Strictly Come Dancing’s Joanne Clifton will reprise her star role in Flashdance - The Musical when it comes to the Ipswich Regent next April.

It seems that the era of the long-running West End show is coming to an end. The trend is now for short-term engagements which, Arts editor Andrew Clarke says, is a good thing for our cultural economy and offers greater opportunities for new work

A former Suffolk schoolboy is set to take the stage for a nationwide touring production of Shrek the Musical.

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