Since they took over the idyllic garden of St Paul’s Church in 2009 Iris Theatre Company have proven themselves to be masterful Shakespearean promenaders. This year they are putting the ‘Arden’ into Covent Garden in a robust production of As You Like It.
John Harwood (Adam), Diana Kashlan (Touchstone) and Tom Deplae (Jaques) in As You Like It at St Paul's Church, London Photo: Tristram Kenton
Daniel Winder’s cast lead us with typical dynamism through this pastoral comedy. It’s a confident display that is pure entertainment. The actors focus damp audience members’ attention from the start with laughing winks, and their earnest speeches keep it there.
Emily Tucker and Joe Forte have real chemistry as cocky Rosalind and heroic Orlando while Fiona Geddes is charming as the put upon Celia. But occasionally Winder over-eggs the pudding. For all Matthew Mellalieu’s natural comic ability, making him a drag Audrey feels superfluous. Diana Kashlan’s Touchstone puts the Grotowski into grotesque to the expense of the comedy and it is hard to connect with this fool.
Planted around the garden, Tessa Battisti’s sets spring up like wild flowers from the lawns and trees of this bucolic haven. Sophia Anastasiou’s extraordinary costumes, which flip from the twisting bustles of the city to the gypsy flare of the country, bring a dose of existentialist style to this English country garden.