Saturday, October 01, 2016


TWAS Theatre at St Martin's Church, Colchester


Old tyres, the obligatory traffic cone, discarded toys. Could be another part of Butterworth's Jerusalem.
But no, this is the French court, re-imagined as a community of Travellers, where Orlando is “rustically at home”. This bold transposition, though it sits uneasily with talk of noble birth, successfully suggests the passion and violence of the sibling rivalry, and evokes the exotic aristocracy of the Travellers.
Most of the play is set in the Forest of Arden, and this is delightfully transformed into a Folk Festival, allowing scope for the many songs [composer and MD Adam Abo-Henriksen] and for Jacques' open-mic stand-up Seven Ages, compellingly delivered by Thomas Edwards.
Shakespeare's text survives the transition very well, with excellent verse speaking across the company.
Roisin Keogh makes a superb Rosalind, setting off with a bed-roll for the Festival, sharing confidences with her friend Celia [Charlotte Luxford], dressing as Ganymede in baseball cap, bomber jacket and hosiery cod-piece. We can see in her open, honest face how deep she is in love; she has some lovely chemistry with her Orlando [ a youthful, assured Alec Clements] – taking his hand, offering her services, snatching a kiss.
Though we lose Touchstone and Audrey in the forest, there is inevitably some serious doubling. Most bizarrely Charles the red-masked wrestler and Phoebe the Proud Shepherdess, both memorably done by Benjamin Power. Phoebe, a vision in pink, certainly not for all markets, even steals the Epilogue from Rosalind. And milks her Adele moment in the best known number.
A little too long, perhaps, as are some of the other songs. Generally the pace is good, and the cuts bring this touring show in at under two hours, plus interval.

Just eight actors, which seems to be the magic minimum for most of Shakespeare. It's the number that Shakespeare's Globe tours with, and they could do worse than to borrow Tom Foster's lively, contemporary take on the pastoral – it would work wonderfully with a picnic in the open air.

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