REVIEW: As You Like It

Cross-dressing, original music and Shakespeare all on sunny Peterhouse Deer Park – what’s not to like?

as you like it Peterhouse review Shakespeare Theatre

In this captivating rendition of a Shakespeare classic, the beautiful Peterhouse Deer Park becomes a stage for summer sun and brilliant acting.

Even if, like me, you are not well versed in Willy’s plays, there is no better way to finish off exam term than treating yourself to this fantastic version, directed by Kathryn Cussons and Gemma Sheehan. Despite some liberties being taken with the original text, this performance is truly brilliant.

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Photo credit: Stephanie McMorran

Firstly, Peterhouse Deer Park is a truly idyllic setting. The acting takes place behind a blue line, as the actors make great use of the park’s space to captivate the audience. The play has an almost garden-party like feel as audience members are actively encouraged to bring picnic blankets and food and drink whilst enjoying some Shakespeare, a truly Cambridge way of celebrating the end of exams. The first two acts take place on a large lawn before both actor and audience are moved to the “Forest of Arden”. If I have but one criticism, it would be that this transition could have been made a little clearer, but I’m honestly just nitpicking at this point.

As for the play itself, it’s standard Shakespeare fare – people falling in love with the wrong partners, “magic”, members of the court abandoning the city for the countryside and of course, wrestling. The complicated romance between Rosalind and Orlando at the core of the play was wonderfully performed by Anna Snodgrass and Tom Ashton respectively but the supporting characters also impressed. Particular praise must be given to Beatriz Santos as Celia, who has proven herself to be an extremely versatile actress following her excellent performance in Ashes to Ashes earlier this term.

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Photo credit: Stephanie McMorran

Rute Costa was hilarious as the jumped up wrestler Charles and her rendition of the classic “All the world’s a stage” speech as the melancholy Jaques was equally impressive. The superb Fitzwilliam actors Conor Monighan and Niamh Curran in the roles of the conspiring Oliver de Boys and shepherdess Phebe were extremely convincing, with the former breaking the fourth wall in the second half encouraging active audience participation (which included messing up my perfect hair, but all is forgiven) and the latter pulling off conflicted lover brilliantly. Despite only having a relatively small role, new kid on the block Bella-Grace Peters added a sexy energy in her role as the sultry prostitute Audrey.

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Photo credit: Stephanie McMorran

Another element of the play worthy of praise is the music. Tiffany Charnley was charming as Amiens and a fantastic singer, and Mae McAllister provided original music that was very beautiful. The final song and dance sequence was a perfect end to what was honestly a perfect play. Superbly directed and extremely well produced by Fresher Ira Lee, I have very little criticism. At a few points, the actors slipped up on their words here and there but then again, this is Shakespeare, they rehearsed the whole thing in two weeks and who am I to criticise, eh?

In short, I can think of no better way to celebrate the end of exams pre-May Week. Get down to Peterhouse Deer Park on the final performance this Saturday and soak up the sun, music and Shakespeare with your friends.

5/5 stars