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As You Like It review at Arundel and Ladbroke Gardens – ‘laid-back and bubbly’

The cast of Shakespeare in the Squares' As You Like It. Photo: James Millar

Outdoor Shakespeare in the summer months is a warm and fuzzy British tradition like Wimbledon, Pimm’s and complaining about the weather. Shakespeare in the Squares’ 2018 show capitalises on the nostalgic fun serving up a bubbly As You Like It making the most of the play’s comedy.

Tatty Hennessy’s production is loosely set in the late 1960s/early 1970s. The new court of the usurping younger duchess is characterised by a uniform of lumpy tweed skirt suits and shade after shade of brown. In contrast to this buttoned-up conformity, the Forest of Arden is a hippy paradise where conventions and fashions are loose and floating.

At the centre of proceedings are Rosalind (Katharine Moraz) and Celia (Comfort Fabian) who make a great double act, with Fabian’s Celia providing the calming counterbalance to Rosalind’s more impassioned temperament.

There’s music laced throughout, with the cast performing it live. Although there are links to the 60s and 70s there’s an upbeat pop vibe to the versions of songs included – meaning you hear Counting Crows and not Joni Mitchell when Big Yellow Taxi is sung.

This lends a family-friendly ease to the show, but also feels a bit like a missed opportunity given that the era can be so strongly evoked musically.

Having selected some of London’s most beautiful squares and gardens to perform in, Shakespeare in the Squares has its Forests of Arden well and truly sorted. And with a friendly cast who softly tease the audience’s children, it’s warm-hearted without being too cutesy.

Romeo and Juliet review at St James’s Square, London – ‘delightful open air Shakespeare’

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Family-focused, cheerful and laid-back outdoor Shakespeare in London's garden squares