Shakespeare's lively, life-affirming comedy is a perfect choice for the gorgeous Open Air theatre nestling in the heart of Regent's Park. Full of wit and wonder as well as sage perspicacity, it's a play largely set in the magical Forest of Arden- a place easily conjured in this leafy setting. A minimal stage set is all that's required in such a scenic location and the first-rate cast fully maximise such a natural advantage. Using the stage pillars as trees on which to display Orlando's lovestruck verse is an ingenious conceit as it merges play and setting seamlessly.
As You Like It is celebratory and playful, employing Shakespeare's familiar ruse of male disguise when Rosalind and Celia flee the corrupt court and seek solace in the forest. Both praising and gently chiding the fluctuations of love whilst also taking a look at popular assumptions about town and country, it's a play that needs a light yet sure touch and director Rachel Kavanagh provides both superbly.
The role of Rosalind is an obvious delight and Rebecca Johnson is a likeable, puckish heroine who seems ideally matched to Benedict Cumberbatch's perfectly pensive, poetic Orlando. Caitlin Mottram is equally wonderful as loyal Celia, playing the part with a mix of comic bravado and endearing charm that works superbly. It's an impressive ensemble overall with delightful performances from many, not least Laura Main's romantically muddled shepherdess, Phebe, who becomes temporarily enamoured of Rosalind's Gannymede. Such an effervescent, warm-hearted production reminds you that, on those rare balmy summer days you won't find a more magical place to spend an evening than at the Open Air Theatre.
What other critics had to say.....
IAN JOHNS for THE TIMES says, "Kavanaugh gives us a straightforward but vibrant rendering of Shakespeare’s pastoral comedy ." DOMINIC CAVENDISH for THE DAILY TELEGRAPH says, "Kavanaugh's approach is clean and clear, unfussily utilising Edwardian dress." LYN GARDNER for THE GUARDIAN says, "A touch of class is brought to the proceedings by Rebecca Johnson, whose Rosalind enchants the air." RACHEL HALLIBURTON for THE EVENING STANDARD says, " Rachel Kavanaugh has proved once again that she can whip up a Shakespeare text so that it fizzes with the lightness and wit of a glass of champagne." SARAH WILLCOKS for TIME OUT says, "The real delight...is Rebecca Johnson's quirky, vivacious Rosalind."
External links to full reviews from newspapers