Category Archives: Theatre

Review, Paco Peña – Solera, Sadler’s Wells, By Hannah Goslin

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

If you have never seen Flamenco dance, they you are surely missing out. A mixture of intense, fast paced and yet graceful movement takes your breath away and yet you feel the intensity in your own blood.

Paco Peña, one of the most formidable of Flamenco guitarists and composers, rejoins with director Jude Kelly, to bring a production comparing and contrasting young and mature performers, both musically and physically. It showcases the traditional dance, and how it drips down through generations, bringing new life to the old dance style.

The first half is actually quite the surprise. In their comfies, skivvies, whatever you call them, we feel as if we have walked into a Spanish bar; the ones you see in tiny Spanish towns or slightly more glamourised on TV and film, where the older musicians are tinkering their beautiful music on the guitar, there’s a make shift drum set, and the vocalising of the locals who have impeccable singing voices. Then, while clearly not ad hoc in this case, the local Flamenco dancers jump into the middle and perform with what they feel in the soul and through their veins.

The staging is minimal – it looks as if we have stumbled on the backstage of a set. This all together is super effective and, despite being in such a large Theatre, feels intimate. However, the novelty unfortunately begins to wear off, especially when the tempo of all the songs chosen for this section have the same slow beat; it soon becomes hard to pay attention to and keep interest. While the dancing is of course extraordinary, the music beautiful, it just wasn’t enough to keep my attention going.

The second half became more of a theatrical production – matching costumes, theatrical lights highlighting pockets of the stage with either a dancer or musician. The same Flamenco style of Spanish guitar and improvised and impressive vocals, this second half is very different – the tempo is interchangeable, from something very poised and slow to fast paced and fun. While I’m sure the theatrical elements added in this half help with its impression, the mixture of tempos and approaches to the dance kept us more on our toes and waiting for the next act.

Paco Peña – Solera is a great introduction to Flamenco. To see where it comes from in tradition to the more heightened modernity. It unfortunately needs a little shake up with the dances and music they put next to one another.

Review, For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When The Hue Gets Too Heavy, Royal Court Theatre, New Diorama Theatre, Nouveau Riche, By Hannah Goslin

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

I heard on the Theatre grapevine about this show. Every word was good, if not amazing and therefore, I could not wait to see it.

Anyone who reads my reviews will know my love for the Royal Court and my opinion that they put on the most extraordinary of shows. They get better and better the more I go, but I really am not sure how they are going to top this one.

For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Hue Gets Too Heavy, is a brilliant production about being male and black with all its pros, cons, its comedy and utter tragedy. It highlights what you would not know if you were not part of that community and the unjust treatment given to general human beings. It looks at each character, their personal issues, past, present, future, the question of masculinity and masculinity as a black man and completely celebrates the community, through dance, music, literature, history.

Each performer is almost a principle character to highlight differences, similarities and to squash away stereotyping. We have the hard character who is angry at the world, the studious and book smart one, the shy one who has also struggled with whether they are black after being brought up in a white community, the queer man who still hides in the heterosexual shadows and so on. While quite simply laid out, when we get into their stories, we realise they have experienced things that we would never expect. Domestic violence, sexual abuse, physical abuse. This highlights how the characters are not just 1 dimensional. They have many layers.

The performers were amazing – with genuine chemistry, effortless performance and tongue and cheek fun, these men seemed genuine friends and as if we were watching in on a group of real people in ordinary life. Only when there are dance cut aways and theatrical elements, do we remember that this is a production.

The elements of dance and physical theatre was astounding. It felt just and as if it fit in, with everyone involved and doing it fluidly, precise and mesmerisingly. Not only did it add to this brilliant production but it heightened it as an astounding piece of theatre.

There is a wonderful balance between these hard hitting stories and absolute belly aching laughter. Some bypasses those not in the community, but the joy heard from others in the audience who it relates to laughing, calling out – there was a comradery and a community setting in just this audience alone. And there was something for everyone – something every person, race, class, age could relate to and therefore, no one felt like an outsider or alone.

For those not in the community, this is a huge learning experience. We get to know of things from the black community, both positive and negative, and some is extremely shocking and un-thought of. I felt more educated and more of an ally than ever before.

For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Hue Gets Too Heavy is equal parts hilarious, joyful, painful and hurtful – it is an education for those in the black community and for those not. It is such an important piece of theatre for every. single. person.

Review, Doctor Who: Time Fracture, Immersive | LDN, By Hannah Goslin

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

I’m going to start this by saying – this was a dream come true!

As a big fan of Doctor Who, when this came into my inbox, I screamed and jumped at the chance.

As most fans of something would be, I was dubious and a little concerned if I would like it. I invited my long DW friend along, who felt similar anticipation, mainly because unfortunately we have both lost favour of the recent series and were apprehensive on how they would play this out.

Gone are the times I remember where the Dragon Centre in Cardiff had the tiniest of exhibitions dedicated to the fandom, featuring a 10 minute walk through of things from the set. Gone are the days a long time after when the larger experience in Cardiff was prominent and I remember almost being in tears at how cool it was. This feels like a reincarnation. But one you are fully involved in.

The first thing to say, and we couldn’t stop saying it was the level of detail applied. I couldn’t to this day tell you the layout of this building, but everywhere you looked, there were tiny elements that if you blinked, you would miss them – a picture of a past companion, the general set and aesthetic, nods to past, present, future (little joke there for you), which found us constantly pointing out to one another and gasping with excitement. Perhaps lost on those who have come for just the experience, but certainly a brilliant addition for the die hard fans.

The narrative itself involved past characters, present characters, storylines we have already encountered, interweaved to create this exciting mission. There’s a fracture in time caused by a bomb in the 1940’s, but we need to help the Doctor to save the universe, making life changing decisions and sacrifices along the way (don’t worry – we all come out alive!)

We ourselves, seem to actually travel through time – we meet Davros, we meet Elizabeth I, Leonardo Da Vinci, the Gallifreyans, and all in different rooms and alcoves that are so exquisite in details. We are all engaged with; unfortunately (or fortunately!?) I seemed to have a face that said to interact with and so I may be biased, but it felt as if every person was engaged with. There were, like any immersive experiences, rooms we never saw. But you never felt as if you missed out and eventually the pieces of the puzzle easily fit together.

The performers stuck to their characters perfectly – improvisation techniques on point for any eventuality. A moment where the timeline of one performer didn’t match with the others in the narrative, she swiftly managed to pad the interaction out in character to fill that gap. Every performer was believable, whether in the spotlight or at the sides. True talented artists throughout.

And when the villains we all know get involved – it felt genuinely scary. Not many of the shows ever truly scared me, but confronted in person with the Weeping Angels, the Daleks, Cybermen… and many more – my god, it felt as if I was really running for my life.

For any Doctor Who fan, this is a must. For anyone who wants to have a genuinely exciting adventure and be surprised at (often literally) every turn, this is certainly for you. I felt transported and never wanted to leave.

Review, Kaash, Akram Khan Company, Southbank Centre, By Hannah Goslin

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

While the seats are still filling, and the last of the audience are rushing in for the no latecomers policy, suddenly someone is on stage. In the darkness, a faint red frame on the back wall, with his back to us.

It’s a wonder whether anyone has noticed him, with chatter still continuing, but the show has begun, and there is a eeriness about this foreboding body.

Akram Khan delivers some of the most interesting, dark and unusual dance productions. This is no different with Kaash. With elements of contemporary dance, influenced with religious, cultural and rhythmic dancing and gestures, the production delivers the deep, dark and at times frightening expressions of Hindu Gods, black holes, creation and destruction and much more.

The colours of the production are earthy and naturalistic – with browns, reds, black and whites highlighting the dancers and the stage itself. It is calming at times, making you feel grounded, and others frightening.

The sounds change from heavy drum beat, to fast paced speech in another language, to naturalistic sounds like wind. However, there is a sense of alienation theory when the sound is cranked up; it gets louder and more foreboding and sounds a little like when a killer is about to appear in a horror film. There is no sense of an end, half expecting something to make you jump but the crescendo is outlived and we are left in bewilderment.

The dancers, using leitmotif gestures that come back and forth throughout, are somehow gentle yet fierce with their movements. Effortlessly sliding around the stage, they make it look easy, but the beads of sweat show otherwise. There is a moment when we see one “breaking down”; physically it is as if she is a robot that is malfunctioning and the movements and way she contorts herself is equally natural and unnatural. It’s difficult to watch but you also cannot take your eyes away.

For a 55 minute piece, Kaash felt like an enternity of a devious world but equally making us want more. It is dark and scary but fascinating and awe inspiring.

REVIEW Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance, New Theatre by Barbara Hughes-Moore

Irish-American dance sensation Michael Flatley catapulted Irish dancing into the mainstream with his first hit show, Riverdance, in 1994. He followed that up with the record-breaking, worldwide smash-hit, Lord of the Dance, in 1997, which has since gone on to break records and box offices around the world. Now the most successful touring production in entertainment history, its 25th anniversary tour chassés its way to Cardiff for a limited time this week.

The music begins, and clips from the production’s history are projected onto the stage as Flatley explains in voiceover how the story came to him in a dream, and how the show made that dream a reality. Then the stage darkens, and lights appear one by one, glowing orbs held by hooded druids that glide so ethereally you feel as though you’re walking through a dream yourself. Then the Little Spirit (Cassidy Ludwig) plays the titular tune on her magic flute and awakens ‘Planet Ireland’: a mystical, medieval fantasy world ruled over by the Lord of the Dance (Matt Smith), who is plunged into an epic battle for both heart(h) and home.

Drawing on Irish folklore, Flatley not only created the show, but produced, directed and choreographed it. There’s nothing quite like Irish dancing, and there’s nothing quite like Lord of the Dance: a mesmerizing spectacle from start to finish. The degree of athleticism, precision and timing on display is astounding, with the 40-strong cast showcasing an unparalleled level of skill and boundless energy. It’s dizzyingly good: I’ve simply never seen dancing like it. Smith steps into Flatley’s iconic shoes with ease; with unmatched bravado and charisma to spare, Smith weaves such a spell on the audience you simply have to join in with the dancing yourself.

There is only one Lord of the Dance, and he does not share power – but there’s a worthy contender for the throne in the shape of the Dark Lord (Zoltan Papp). Dressed like an embattled biker king, Papp brings a sinister swagger that had the audience booing (or, in my case, cheering) as if he were a pantomime villain. His duel with Smith is as thrilling a setpiece as you can imagine, and features some of the finest dance-fighting this side of West Side Story.

There’s not a weak link or a missed step in the whole ensemble, from Cyra Taylor’s mercurial Morrighan to Lauren Clarke’s sparkling Saoirse. Cassidy Ludwig brings a puck-like, playful charm to the Little Spirit, whose performance shines even more brightly than her glittery golden costume. The music, composed by Ronan Hardiman and Gerard Fahy, segues from lilting Celtic ballads one minute to ritualistic chants and sweeping epics the next, some of which is even performed live on stage courtesy of Giada Costenaro Cunningham and Aisling Sage’s first-class violin duets and singer Celyn Cartwright as Erin the Goddess, whose heavenly interludes give the cast time for a spritely costume change.

It’s fitting that the last word – or should that be ‘dance’? – is left to the man who started it all, with a trio of projected Flatleys out-dancing one another, only to be joined by the whole cast dancing in unison. If, like me, you have a much-loved VHS copy of Riverdance in pride of place on the shelf, or if you’ve never experienced the thrill of Irish dancing before, then this is the show for you. Lord of the Dance is only at the New Theatre for a limited time, so join the 60 million people who have loved and lived this show for an encore like no other. There have been 25 years of standing ovations so far, and if last night was any indication, here’s to 25 more!

Lord of the Dance is playing at the New Theatre Cardiff through to Wednesday 27th April

Review by
Barbara Hughes-Moore

Get the Chance supports volunteer critics like Barbara to access a world of cultural provision. We receive no ongoing, external funding. If you can support our work please donate here thanks.

Review Dreamgirls, Wales Millennium Centre by Gary Pearce

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

What a vocal sensation Dreamgirls brought to the WMC last night, I loved every minute of it. Enter the glitzy glamorous world of the music business, where the public sees only what the business wants them to see. But scratch below the surface and you soon find the harsh reality of it all, the struggle to get into the music business in the first place, the constant fight to stay there.

The racism, sexism, financial exploitation, the backstabbing, the lies, the hurt and the fight for recognition in a world saturated by wannabes, has-beens, and could-have-beens, all still vying for attention, a taste of the highlife and a share of the money that comes from others hard work. The Dreamgirls has it all! Take away the back story and Dreamgirls is a visual and sound explosion.

The listener is immediately transported to mid-1960s Detroit. The music and songs are well written and typical of the era with the Motown sound very prominent throughout.

The show’s cast is incredibly talented and versatile, great acting, great dancing, and fabulous singers. No credit can be taken away from any of them, but some spine-chillingly brilliant solos stand out above all else and bring the audience to their feet. If you’ve seen Dreamgirls you’ll have lived these moments, if you haven’t seen it then I suggest you do!

Absolutely brilliant 10/10

REVIEW Orbit’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, New Theatre by Barbara Hughes-Moore

Orbit Theatre has dazzled and delighted Cardiff audiences for five decades and counting. As Wales’ number one amateur theatre company, it’s staged productions of everything from Grease to Godspell, and now Orbit is back at the New Theatre with an enchanting new version of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Sophie Baker as Dorothy Gale (and Ella as Toto)

The story follows Dorothy Gale, a young girl from Kansas who dreams of escaping her dreary existence. She gets her wish when a tornado sweeps her and her little dog, Toto, to the fantastical land of Oz, a place filled with lions and tigers and bears – oh my! With a pair of magical ruby slippers and three new friends – a scarecrow, a tin man, and a cowardly lion – she heads to the Emerald City to meet the only person who can grant her wish to return home: the great and powerful Wizard of Oz – that is, unless the Wicked Witch of the West doesn’t catch her first.

Deryn Grigg as the Wicked Witch of the West

Directed by Rob Thorne Jnr, the show is every bit as magical as the beloved movie starring Judy Garland. It’s hard to believe this is an “amateur” production because everyone both onstage and behind it is working at such a professional level. As Dorothy, Sophie Baker steps into the iconic ruby slippers with ease and sings an enchantingly beautiful rendition of Over the Rainbow, leaving not a single dry eye in the house. Her duet with Paige Hodgson’s glamorous Glinda the Good Witch is a highlight, as are her interactions with the Wizard himself (Lewis Cook). The timeless songs you know and love all sound incredible here – everything from We’re Off to See the Wizard and the Merry Old Land of Oz to If I Only Had a Brain / a Heart / the Nerve.

Dorothy’s new friends are all on top form, from Daniel Ivor Jones’s nimble Scarecrow to Fran Hudd’s graceful Tin Man, and especially Matthew Preece as the Cowardly Lion, who has all of Bert Lahr’s mannerisms down pat (you’ll truly believe he’s The King of the Forest). The Gatekeeper might have been a throwaway role in other hands than Joe Green’s, who brings a real star quality to his scenes, while Deryn Grigg is devilishly good as the Wicked Witch of the West. Orbit’s talented young cast bring spirit and spectacle to the stage as munchkins and monkeys and trees – oh my! – and really deliver on Nicola Boyd-Anderson’s fabulous choreography. No-one, however, steals the show more than the adorable Ella as Toto who is easily one of the cutest canines to ever grace the stage – not to mention the most mischievous.

Lewis Cook as Professor Marvel/The Wizard of Oz

Orbit has won countless awards and has launched numerous careers, but their real magic comes from the fact that they make dreams come true. Their ‘Open Audition’ process means that newcomers have the opportunity to tread the boards and learn from the best. Dorothy’s story tells us that while there’s adventure to be found over the rainbow, there really is no place like home – and there’s no show quite as charming as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. If you and your family want a little bit of magic and a lot of fun this half term, then all you have to do is click your heels three times and follow the yellow brick road to the New Theatre.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz will be playing at Cardiff’s New Theatre from 20 – 23 April, with performances at 1pm and 5pm each day.

Review by
Barbara Hughes-Moore

Get the Chance supports volunteer critics like Barbara to access a world of cultural provision. We receive no ongoing, external funding. If you can support our work please donate here thanks.

Calling Deaf Theatre Lovers!

Are you a BSL user?

Do you love theatre?

Ever dreamed of becoming a critic?

We need you!

Working with Get the Chance, New Theatre Cardiff is offering  two free tickets to Steve Backshall’s Ocean on Sunday 24 April at 6pm, interpreted by Tony Evans.

We’re looking for someone to write or sign a creative review of the BSL interpreted performance of Ocean. You don’t need experience, you don’t need qualifications, just a willingness to tell us what you liked about the show and what could have been better.

You can send your review as a BSL video or a piece of writing. It will feature on the Get the Chance website and we’ll share it on the New Theatre’s social media channels.

Could this be you?

Email with a few words about why you’d like to be involved and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

You can find information about our other upcoming BSL performances on the New Theatre website as well as  details of how to book discounted tickets to accessible performances.

Review The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, Theatr Clwyd by Donna Williams

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

Jim Cartwright originally wrote The Rise and Fall of Little Voice with Jane Horrocks in mind for the starring role. Horrocks had just appeared in Cartwright’s acclaimed debut hit, Road and so Cartwright had witnessed her perfectly mimicking the likes of Edith Piaf, Judy Garland, and Shirley Bassey throughout their time together at rehearsals, at the theatre etc. The story of a painfully timid girl living with her brash and drunken mother and only able to express herself through her uncanny impersonations of her favourite singers, made Horrocks a star overnight. The production at the Cottesloe Theatre, London (now the Dorfman) was an instant success and did no harm at all to the reputation of little-known, young director, Sam Mendes! There have been several revivals since and of course, a film adaptation also starring Jane Horrocks in 1998.

This revival certainly does not disappoint; the only issue with this particular production being a technical one. As the play begins, we hear music from an old record player, Mari, and daughter Little Voice, conversing over it. At first, I assume the idea is that the music’s drowning out the sound of their voices, the title character’s quiet, mousy voice exaggerated. However, as the piece unfolds, I struggle to catch some of the dialogue and hear other audience members speak to staff about the same problem in the interval. Luckily, this does not take away too much from the rest of the production and I have a thoroughly enjoyable evening at theatre.

As the audience take their seats the curtain is open and we see a small, two-up/two-down house; clearly unkempt and unclean and somewhat dilapidated, perhaps to mirror their disorderly lives. Mari, a single parent who clearly enjoys a drink, a party, and a few men, is portrayed superbly by Shobna Gulati, who most will recognise as having played Anita in dinnerladies and Sunita in Coronation Street. For a start off, Gulati looks fantastic for her 55 years and stuns in iconic fashions from the nineties…leopard print, mini-skirts, sequins, and fishnet tights! This is such a well-written, complex character; fun-loving, sexy, brash, harsh, angry, emotional! Gulati’s comic timing is spot-on, and she gets across the gritty stuff beautifully as well. The character’s use of the English language also provides for lots of giggles with dialogue such as ‘you don’t know nothin’ about electrickery, do ya?’ and ‘you can imagine me feelin’s on signin’ marriage register… Mr. And Mrs. F. Hoff’! Cartwright’s script is certainly memorable and with its working-class backdrop, certainly has a feel of Willy Russell to it.

The set is highly effective, the house unmoving with only the curtain coming down and a simple, flashy archway representing Mr Boo’s club lounge where Little Voice will eventually perform, forced on by the sleazy, money-chasing Ray Say, played perfectly by Ian Kelsey. Also clever is the portrayal of the house fire in Act 2, brilliantly created by only the use of onstage smoke, sound effects and lighting. There is no questioning the event unfolding despite the absence of actual fire. LV spends most of her time in her little bedroom upstairs playing her records, surrounded by posters of Judy Garland etc. and a photograph of her late father, from whom she clearly gained her love of music. Mari spends most of her time downstairs, banging the ceiling with a mop handle to discourage LV’s playing and stringing along her ‘friend’ Sadie, brilliantly played by Fiona Mulvaney. A seemingly simple part whose dialogue mostly consists of the word ‘okay,’ Mulvaney provides numerous comedy moments; chugging mouldy Cornflakes from the box, dancing to the Jackson 5 and ‘vomiting’ whilst stood looking directly into the audience!

Finally, praise must go to Christina Bianco as Little Voice herself. Despite Bianco being in her forties and American, she plays the young, Northern lass to a tee from drooping around the house in her pajamas to her Pygmalion style transformation to a starlet in a gorgeous gown. And her impersonations are impeccable! Close your eyes and you are at a Judy show, a Cilla show, a Bassey show, sitting with the President whilst Marilyn sings him Happy Birthday! Bianco’s range, tone, and ability to mimic are outstanding!

The Rise and Fall of Little Voice continues its UK Tour on April 25th at the Theatre Royal, Brighton and finishes on July 16th at the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham. Head to the website to book your tickets:

Theatr Clwyd, Mold
April 19th-23rd, 2022

Cast & Creatives:

Little Voice: Christina Bianco
Mari: Shobna Gulati
Ray Say: Ian Kelsey
Billy: Akshay Gulati
Sadie/Understudy Mari: Fiona Mulvaney
Mr Boo, u/s Ray Say & Phone Man: William Ilkley
u/s LV & u/s Sadie: Anna Hale
Phone Man, u/s Mr Boo/Billy & Resident Director: James Robert Moore

Writer: Jim Cartwright
Director: Bronagh Lagan
Set & Costume Designer: Sara Perks
Lighting Designer: Nic Farman
Sound Designer: Andrew Johnson
Musical Supervisor & Associate Sound Designer: Eamonn O’Dwyer
Associate Costume Designer/Supervisor: Sarah Mercade
Production Manager: Felix Davies
CSM: Terry Dickson
DSM: Karen Habens
ASM: Suzi Kelly
Tech Swing: Jade Hicks-Williams
Associate Lighting Designer/Relighter: Joseph Ed Thomas
Fit-Up Carpenter: Chris Bewers
Head of Wardrobe: David (Daisy) Morgan
Production Coordinator: Ollie Hancock
General Manager/Assistant Producer: Chris Matanlé
Co-Producer: Tiny Giant Productions
Co-Producer: Neil Gooding Productions
Co-Producer: Bonnie Comley and Stewart F. Lane
Producer: Glass Half Full Productions
Producer: Katy Lipson for Aria Entertainment

Running Time: 2 hours (including interval)

Review As You Like It, Northern Broadsides, Theatr Clwyd by Simon Kinsdale.

The performance was preceded by an announcement Northern Broadsides had needed to bring in two actors at extremely short notice because of Covid. This is a difficulty companies are going to face for some time to come. However, I didn’t feel it was just the pandemic which weakened this production. Its main problems were a lack of enthusiasm for Shakespearean verse and a belief the play’s comedy could be improved. If you are going to do As You Like It, though, I think you need to relish the poetry in the lines, the situations and the setting. You need to accept there will be long speeches telling stories, and that complex ideas will be introduced in imagery. You have to tread warily if you think you can improve on Shakespeare’s comedy, or think you have more to say about the human condition than he does.

So, the fact that the stand-in Duke had to read his lines was less intrusive than the TV show commentary introduced into the wrestling scene. As the wrestling itself was well staged and exciting, the commentary was unnecessary. Then there were distracting asides throughout the performance using modern English. They interrupted the flow of the action and the establishment of the its imaginary world. There was a conversation with the audience at the beginning of the second half (why?). There was additional cross-dressing, which weakened the humour emerging from Rosalind’s disguise, rather than complementing it. The ‘Shall I compare thee..’ sonnet was added in to the ridiculing of Orlando’s scribblings for a quick laugh. Despite the difficulties and the ingenuity involved in bringing four couples together for a simultaneous marriage at the end, they danced off with different partners.
Some of the cast managed the verse well, finding expressive intonations and getting into role easily, whilst others struggled, rushing what they had to say or grinding out their speeches. At times it was easy to follow and appreciate what was being said – Touchstone’s final speech was an excellent example of making the most of the lines, and he made the audience laugh with it – but all too often it was difficult to disentangle what was being meant. For example, far too much of what Jacques said was lost and this meant the character never established himself. Considering how vital and original Jacques is – he’s one of Shakespeare’s great wordsmiths – this was more than a pity. Overall, I thought the supporting cast led by Celia (Isobel Coward) sustained the play with funny cameo appearances and the business that surrounded them. They appeared comfortable in what they were doing and saying; in contrast the principals were unsteady.

For me, Rosalind (EM Williams) spoke too quickly and too emphatically. Every line was accompanied by an expression or a gesture. She was tense, almost angry throughout and whilst she was always interesting to watch she was also demanding to listen to. I felt like saying ‘relax’. She needed to stop trying to impress and simply win the audience’s sympathy because, although Rosalind does win through in the end, hers is no foregone conclusion: her success and the happy ending is not just the result of energy and aggression.

Orlando (Shaban Dar) was too slow and earnest although the character, with his confused attempts at expressing himself emotionally, can be highly amusing. There was little of the chemistry that can come out of a relationship between a duffer and a high achiever when he was with Rosalind. The comedy of the scene in which he, as a wholly unreconstructed heterosexual has to make love to the supposed boy, Ganymede, in order to practice for the real thing, was lost and with it Shakespeare’s clever exploration of gender and appearance.

Jacques(Adam Kashmiry) turned his back on the audience too many times and had a limited range of gesture, repeatedly stretching out his hands to make his point. I didn’t see what having him wear a skirt added to his character. He came across as troubled and sad rather than brilliant and artificially melancholy. The audience enjoyed the way the other courtiers fleshed out his ‘All the world’s a stage..’ but nothing was done with the very last act of all –

second childishness and mere oblivion,/Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything

  • which is a sixteenth century description of senile dementia and could, therefore, be made quite topical today.

Touchstone (Joe Morrow) established a rapport with the audience by his exuberance and by speaking clearly and confidently but I thought the actor was miscast. He was not a fool with a wit –

as dry as the remainder biscuit/After a voyage

  • so there was no real explanation for Jacques’ fascination with him. His seduction of Audrey, which represents a realistic contrast with the romantic goings-on everywhere else in the forest, didn’t make a lot of sense, either.

The backdrop to the play’s plot is the contrast between the confused, often corrupt world of the court and the honest simplicity and working life poverty of the country. Those that travel from the court into the country are all changed for the better, up to and including Duke Frederick who, like Putin, begins an invasion of Arden intending to commit mass murder and is then converted to benevolent pacifism, unlike Putin. On a technical and design level the production did not reinforce this basic distinction of setting – we didn’t get much of a forest – so observations like sweet are the uses of adversity fell flat.

In the last act, the middle son of old Sir Rowland de Boys arrives from out of nowhere to describe this fantastic conversion. His speech is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, with Shakespeare repeating and emphasising the magic of the return to nature, and it went unremarked although dramatically it completes the comedy. (Another production might have considered then and now attitudes towards the natural environment.)

Northern Broadsides is to be commended for keeping its show on the road and helping to revive theatres after the pandemic but, on the evidence of this performance, I think the company might be better advised to steer clear of Shakespeare, possibly tackling work by Brecht or other dramatists whose work is less reliant on verse where their inventiveness can be deployed without disturbing the basic fabric of the play.