Set in the leafy surroundings of Ealing’s Walpole Park, next to Pitshanger Manor, As You Like It feels a perfect fit for a bit of bank holiday Bard (even though three of the six planned performances had to be moved elsewhere due to the weather).
Scenes in the Forest of Arden are augmented by the natural park sounds of parakeets and given a natural set centred by trees. Even a nosey squirrel was watching proceedings before the start, then retreated to the safety of its drey.
Here, we follow Orlando (a very strong Zak Bates), who has to escape from his nasty brother Oliver (pompous Tom Lotherington), and Rosalind (an expressive Emma Langmaid), who assumes male garb as Ganymede and takes her cousin Celia (amusing Elle O’Donnell) along as a simple shepherdess.
Is love in the air? Of course. And with women cast as the melancholy Jaques (Jennifer Wiltsie) and, dually as the Duke and servant Adam (Anna Kirke), there’s more gender playfulness than Rosalind’s subterfuge to get her man.
This is a light, family-friendly comedy directed by Charlie Barker and featuring students and recent graduates of Drama Studio London alongside older professional actors (Wiltsie, Kirke, and Simon Taylor).
With an ending that brings happy endings and redemption, As You Like It mostly survives being snipped down, but a little more Touchstone (Taylor) and fewer chase scenes for Phoebe (a versatile Jessie Jacobs) and Silvius (clownish Paddy Lish) would be welcome, and Jaques’s ‘ages of man’ speech was a bit of a race.
Persever Productions is a charity and a theatre company working with actors at all stages of their careers. As well as the annual Shakespeare in the Park, they do monthly script-in-hand performances at St Matthew’s Church, with the next one on 13 Sep (Alice in Wonderland)
Shakespeare in the Park: As You Like It played over August Bank Holiday.