Oxford Theatre Guild has seized the opportunity to entertain us outdoors by putting on an excellent production of William Shakespeare’s pastoral comedy ‘As You Like It’, set in the cool shade of the trees in St Edward’s School Sports Fields.
The perfect foil for the Forest of Arden, OTG is able to mirror the forest setting as shadows lengthen across the Oxford cricket pitch and pigeons gently coo along to the piano.
And while Shakespeare’s language speaks for itself – ‘I am falser than vows made in wine’, ‘there is no clock in the forest’, this adaption by OTG is full of wit and humour, both linguistically and visually.
With Rosalind dressed as a man (Charlotte Godfrey), Celia (Rachel Twyford) as an idealised shepherdess worthy of Marie Antoinette, and Mistress Touchstone the court jester (Martha Gray), it is ‘rustic revelry’ indeed in this valid production.
Clean and clear in its delivery, the acting from the 16 member cast is wonderfully strong, the constant laughter from the audience reiterating their prowess.
There is also some impressive athleticism involved, with a great sword fight involving the hero Orlando as thematic clashes abound: love and jealously, men and women, courtly and country life and city dwellers versus rural society, sadly all still relatable issues.
Or as Orlando (Niall McDaid) puts it: “‘I thought that all things had been savage here, but in fact it is where can be found tongues in trees, books in running brooks, and animals come to language.
‘As You Like It’ is also famous for its monologues, particularly that given by the melancholic lord Jaques: ‘All the world’s a stage, And all men and women merely players, They have their exits and their entrances, And one man plays many parts’, well delivered here in a suitably knowing way by Edward Smith.
The description of old age as “a second childishness, and mere oblivion” also struck a particularly poignant chord after many people’s experiences with family during the pandemic.
Over 60 of us were in the audience last night, and while wandering over for refreshments in the interval, I overheard someone remark: ‘I’m really enjoying it; I’m really enjoying being out in the evening’.
I agree and I strongly recommend that you go.
OTG’s As You Like It continues until 31 July, Tickets can be purchased at https://www.oxfordtheatreguild.com/productions/a-summer-of-magical-theatre