As You Like It

Wed 1st – Sat 18th August 2012

Venue

Venue

reviews

Leah Eades

at 01:42 on 4th Aug 2012

0agrees

0disagrees

Ethereal smoke shrouds a stage littered with bras, clothing and the pariphenalia of drag. In the centre, in silence, a topless women sits with her back to us, coquettishly flicking her long flowing locks, waist cinched in to create a feminine hourglass silhouette. Suddenly the music starts, the heroine of the play turns and flashes us a flirty, knowing smile - and it is, of course, a man. And so Cambridge's all-male take on the well-known Shakespearean cross-dressing comedy begins.

It's always interesting to see how university productions 'do' Shakespeare - a traditional rehash or risky reinterpetation - but the opening scene was really enough to convince me that this was going to be a particularly enjoyable take on classic Shakespeare, as the male and 'female' cast members' traditional coupled-up Elizabethan dance melded suddenly and seamlessly into an expertly choreographed version of Beyoncé's 'Run the World (Girls)'. Things only got better from there, with slow-motion fight scenes and perfectly-timed soundtracks paving the way for an unusual and energetic experience.

All-male casts in student productions always rings alarm bells with me - not because I don't love drag, but because I do. Too often actors use it as an excuse to ham up a production in a skirt and wig for a laugh, in parodies of feminity that are offensive to women, and to genuine drag queens. Luckily in this production gender was maturely yet hilariously explored, with all actors giving strong, convincing performances regardless of their character's gender, and I was pleased to discover that many cast members in fact belonged to Cambridge's first and only drag troupe 'Denim', who regularly perform at cabaret nights. What ensued was a brilliant play on gender as well as a celebration of campness - what more could you expect in a play that has men dressed as women dressed as men seducing men who think they're men pretending to be women? Sheer brilliance!

This was really a near-professional level performance, with an all-star cast. Even the smaller parts could steal the show, whether it was the cheerleader offering out celery to the audience in French ("Voulez-vous la celerie?" being a comical concession to that fact the play is ostentatiously set in France), or the road sign that played the lyre and clearly harboured rock star dreams. Celia (Hugh Wyld) and Rosalind (Tom Russell) made a winning pair as girly BFFs, and Mateo Oxley gave a stunning performance as Phoebe, the sexy Spanish temptress, complete with flamenco style, foxy attitude and impressive cartwheeling skills. Edward Eustace was clearly channelling Vyvyan from 'The Young Ones' in his interpretation of the fool Touchstone, and it was hilarious to watch.

Although there were one or two fluffed lines, this was an incredibly strong and impressive performance that had the audience giggling and applauding throughout. I'd recommend going to see it if you can - whether a fan of Shakespearean theatre, comedy or drag, you're sure to be in stitches.

agree
disagree

Joel Singer

at 04:36 on 4th Aug 2012

0agrees

0disagrees

'As You Like It' gets an inspired modern twist in the latest offering from Cambridge University Amateur Dramatics. This all-male performance is funny, engaging and filled with incredible talent and innovative direction.

The audience, upon entrance, is greeted by a barely-clad 'woman' facing away and playing with her long hair, but as the show begins the wig comes off and we are greeted with a Shakespearean dance that soon transforms into a choreographed pop-song routine. Modern and often very camp dance routines become a running theme of the show that is often returned to in between scene changes. Particularly impressive was Amrou Al-Kadhi’s energetic dancing in drag: while on paper this may seem baffling as part of Elizabethan Theatre, in the context of the show, it works. The use of props was also commendable as nearly all costumes were on stage at the beginning of the play and gradually became barer as the show progressed. The balance between a classic production and an entirely original piece had clearly been given much thought, evident in the blend of classic and modern dress and the use of garishly modern make-up – think of men with bright red lipstick and black eye-shadow. While the performance sticks faithfully to the original script, the occasional clever, contemporary reference is welcomed – at one point breaking character to arrange a brunch date. Alhough the whole cast is very strong and there didn’t seem to be a weak link, Mateo Oxley’s Phoebe - the unrequited, yet incredibly passionate lover of Ganymede - was hilarious and Edward Eustace’s lascivious, Johnny Rotten-esque personification of Touchstone provided fantastic contrast. Another highlight of the show was the astute direction and staging of Charlie Parham, giving the amateur dramatic show a professional feel. However, I was often left wanting more creativity to shine through and think that there was room for the performance to be even more ambitious in its modernisation.

One of the best aspects of the show was that the cast are clearly enjoying themselves throughout, performing a great, innovative show with slick production and a talented cast. From start to finish, all actors displayed an exceedingly polished performance and flairs of originality really help to make the show a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

agree
disagree

Audience Avg.

0 votes, 0 comments

Click here for more event information

cast involved

other events on

Version 0.3.7a