As you Like it

Princeton Day School Theater
American High School Theatre Festival
Pilrig Studio Venue 103

4 August – 9 August

In the midst of all the furore in Belfast over whether or not the Union Flag should fly daily over the City Hall a friend confided in me that the part of his British culture and identity which he really values is not a piece of coloured cloth but the works Milton, Keats, Burns, the King James Bible and Shakespeare.

Sometimes quite dreadful things are done to Shakepeare’s plays at the Fringe. As one stand-up comedian wryly observed, it would be really radical if somebody did a Shakespeare play as if it was set in the bard’s own day. Well, he could have his wish if he takes a wee trip down the Leith Walk to the Pilrig Studio to see this wonderfully exuberant interpretation of Shakespeare’s comedy of exile and love, As You Like It.

This young American High School cast don’t hold back anything in this show. The casting and the direction is perfect and it’s obvious that everyone involved is really having a great time. The chenistry between the cousins Celia and Rosalind is perfect, as is the sense of animosity between the brothers Orlando and Oliver. I can’t name any of the actors involved as the main roles alternate.

One nice touch is that some seats in the audience are kept free, so cast members sit in them from time-to-time giving the sense of action going on all round you, rather than just on the stage in front of you. This is immersive theatre at its best. Audience participation goes much further as one member of the audience will find himself plucked from his seat to preside over the wedding scene as Hymen, the god of marriage.

Only one thing marred this production for this reviewer; in some scenes a group of musicians played a series of notes on piano, guitar and tambourine which made it difficult to hear some of the dialogue. Despite this minor irritation – my seat was right in front of the piano after all – the packed audience didn’t seem to notice and they really enjoyed this show and it’s superb value for just a fiver.

**** Four Stars

David Kerr


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