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Innovative production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It brings classic tale to life at Westacre Theatre

Review: As You Like It, Westacre Theatre

‘All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts.’

This is one of the well-known William Shakespeare quotes from As You Like It which opened at Westacre Theatre and runs until August 26 at the riverside award-winning venue.

Helen Spacie played Orlando
Helen Spacie played Orlando

The theatre’s summer of theatre and music – Live By The Lake – is a great way to be introduced to innovative productions – this one directed by Matt Grist and Andy Naylor – with a dedicated company of talented bursary students, performers and volunteers who bring to life a variety of productions, plus screenings and activities at this wonderful location.

Westacre director Sadie Grist said: “Live by the Lake is thundering (sometimes literally!) along as our third major production of the season opened.

“Our spirits have not been dampened and neither have our audiences who are seated safely under our summer tent.

The company rehearsing in the canopy stage space
The company rehearsing in the canopy stage space

“The setting is stunning, the productions are magical, the blankets are warm, and the ice cream is cold.

“Do not miss this final in-house production of the season!”

As usual this innovative production did not disappoint with a core of actors who have shown great diversity in the plays so far.

Having visited a few times now during this season, the production pulls out all the stops with costume and the use of music – a solo of Joni Mitchel and the band of players using modern songs helps the accessibility and shapes the meaning of the plot.

Westacre Theatre has a varied programme of live theatre, screenings and youth productions
Westacre Theatre has a varied programme of live theatre, screenings and youth productions

It features ‘a dozen women and three blokes’ in the cast playing the characters of the play that delves into romance, gender roles, and the usual banishment into the forest – with main characters Orlando, Rosalind, Celia, and others – who all live happily ever after.

With regular performers such as Tamsin Wheeler (Private Lives) with effortless casual comedy timing as Jacques and orating the final spot-lit soliloquy brilliantly, to Sybil Grist, aged six, who acted and engaged with characters on stage beautifully.

There is a stellar cast with bursary student Rosie Hastings (School for Wives; The Complete Works of Shakespeare abridged) as Rosalind, consistently holding her own and never putting a foot wrong.

Helen Spacie who is training at Guildford School of Acting was confident as Orlando, with a great singing voice.

Mentions go to all the company and crew – who are committed to bringing productions to a paying audience –and a stand-out for me was Elisha Carter – playing the lovestruck Silvius with gentle comedic technique.

The whole production brings all the elements of gender swapping and disguise which is ever more relevant today, to a modern audience in an innovative and contemporary way.

As with all live theatre venues Westacre Theatre was affected by the pandemic and needs ‘bums on seats’ to support it.

Show dates for As You Like It are: August 18, 23, 24, 25 and 26 at 7.30pm.

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