Wednesday, 9 March 2011

As You Like It: Nice Swan Theatre Company at The People’s Theatre, Newcastle upon Tyne

Writer: William Shakespeare
Director: Ben Hunt
Reviewer: Steve Burbridge

It’s Shakespeare, but not as you know it!

Nice Swan Theatre Company have taken ‘As You Like It’, the bard’s pastoral comedy, and given it a unique and innovative twist. Set in the modern day, the action begins with the characters enjoying a night on the town, where flirting, snogging, bitching, binge-drinking and all manner of other drunken revelry are the order of the evening. The famous wrestling scene is transformed into a ‘dance-off’ in the nightclub and there’s even a McDonald’s to boot!

This modern and ambitious production is presented by Nice Swan Theatre Company, a student-based group in Tyne and Wear, which provides a stepping stone between amateur and professional theatre for young talent, aged between 16 and 25, from all over the North East region.

Director Ben Hunt and Producer Jamie Gray have, once again, assembled a stellar cast – as they did for their production of ‘Spring Awakening’ - and they all play their parts to perfection, although there are a number of stand-out performances. Andy McAdam presents us with a charismatic Orlando and Laura Stoker is a feisty Rosalind. Thomas Whalley, as an outrageously camp Touchstone (in a tutu!) , leads the comic relief and is well-supported by Sean Bell as Adam/Audrey.

As usual, one cannot fault the production values of Nice Swan’s work. A sparse stage is transformed into the dance floor of the nightclub by some nifty neon lighting and then into Arden Alley by the inclusion of several overflowing dustbins. Andrew Milburn and Tom Jefferson accentuate mood and dramatic potential with their effective lighting design.

The creativity and innovation of this highly talented group is to be applauded. Who’d have thought that the language of Shakespeare would translate so well to being spoken in a broad Geordie accent? Shakespeare traditionalists may not approve of this particular interpretation of the play and might deride it as heresy, although, personally speaking, I strongly suspect that the bard would wholeheartedly approve.

If you appreciate Shakespeare being performed with a modern slant, and aren’t easily offended by some infrequent bad language then I’m sure you’ll find this production exactly ‘As You Like It’. However, the production has only a three night run and ticket sales are extremely high, so you’ll have to hurry if you don’t want to miss out!

Runs until Wednesday 9th March 2010
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