As You Like It

"There is a large ensemble in this show, made up of incredible people who all clearly understand the text well"

@sohoplace is London’s newest theatre, the first built in 50 years. Sitting in the heart of the city it is a welcome new addition to the landscape of London. The auditorium has been built in the round, with an oval shaped stage and 4 gangways for entrance/exits. It sets a wonderful challenge for staging and this piece uses it to its full potential.

The first in house production is ‘As You Like It’ directed by Josie Rourke. Being in the round there is little opportunity for set design, a lone baby grand piano sits on stage as the audience enters, giving the indication that music is going to be key here. Above the stage is a grand picture frame, adorned with branches from trees, when later in the piece the stage is showered with leaves you feel as though you really are in Arden Forest. 

A strong cast of actors takes on the text, it has been played with a little but is true to the original writing. There have been translations into BSL (British Sign Language) and the addition of captions to every performance making it accessible to a much wider audience. The addition of these things is due to the inclusion of deaf actress Rose Ayling-Ellis playing Celia.  Rose brings an incredible energy to the role. Acting with her whole-body using gestures and signs to convey her feelings and intentions through the piece, she’s warm and charismatic throughout. 

Alfred Enoch plays Orlando, with a charm and innocence he falls in love with Rosalind (Leah Harvey). Their scenes together are full of mis-understood identity, humour, and passion. Leah does well as Rosalind, protecting her cousin whilst also chasing the man she loves. She orchestrates the coming together of several love stories at the play’s end. 

There is a large ensemble in this show, made up of incredible people who all clearly understand the text well and have studied the intentions behind each character. Allie Daniel is scene stealing when she sings in the piece, with a beautiful clear tone, I could listen to her for hours on end.

The costumes are a real stand out here, designed by Rob Jones, they begin as rich, decadent, jewel adorned courtier outfits. Big dresses, big trousers, and ruffs before transitioning to more muted tones when we arrive in the forest. Every detail has been thought of and the fact the costumes will be viewed from every angle has been considered. 

This is an incredibly inclusive piece, with trans, non-binary and gender fluid identities represented in the fantastic cast we see before us. 

Choosing which plays to put on in a new theatre is no easy task, you have to find one that shows off the assets of the new venue as well as brings audiences in and ‘As You Like It’ is fantastic selection for @sohoplace, it cements it as a solid venue and hopefully gives us a flavour of what to expect in the future. 

This production was reviewed on the 15th December 2022.  The show runs at @sohoplace in London until the 28th January 2023.  Tickets are available here: As You Like It (sohoplace.org)

Review written by Rosie Browne

Photo credit: Johan Persson/Manuel Harlan

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