Tour 2014

A lovely Review of As You Like It

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A lovely few words about our current tour As You Like It when it performed in Thompson’s Park – Cardiff:

Taking Flight Theatre’s production of As You Like It is consistently strong and in every way superb.  The company of actors is wonderfully talented, with a professional attitude to their art, and skills to match, bearing fair comparison with actors of long experience in classical theatre companies.  This band of players, Taking Flight, has everything going for them.  Consider, then, their astonishing strengths.  They have magical and subtly evocative music specially composed by Dan Lawrence and played and sung with sensitivity and great aplomb by Sam Bees, Chloe Clarke and the whole cast.  They have brilliant costumes, too, and wear them with style and panache.  They have a designer and a stage management team to rival the best in the country.  And, as if all that were not enough, they have an excellent director in Elise Davison, an adaptable stage in the open air provided by Nature herself, a script by the greatest writer the world has ever known, and scenery by God.
Into that setting they have brought Shakespeare’s comedy of youth, fleeting the time as in the golden world.  As You Like It is a play of love at first sight.  Spontaneity is at its heart and drives it along.  “When I think, I must speak!” says the heroine, and that goes for many around her in the forest where five-sixths of the play happens.  Swift speaking without gabbling is what this play requires, and then the pauses, when they come, are twice as effective as they could ever have been if the speaking had been ponderous.
But there is no danger of ponderousness with this company, whose voices are clear and audible, whether speaking softly and confidentially or ringing out like evening bells across the treetops.  They use no microphones because they need none, and in this they are fully and authentically Shakespearian, successors of the painted player-men of old, unravelling their rhetoric to the wind.  As You Like It was intended for performance in the open-air playhouses of the Elizabethans, and now the stage is an outdoor one again, a wooded park with views of distant glades, through which the characters of the Forest of Arden wend their way, approach and disappear.
This company are taking their production to many outdoor venues on their ambitious tour, with the result that everywhere they go, they have to present the same play in a different set, and that makes extraordinary demands upon the participants’ theatrical imagination, as well as upon their ability to adapt their performances to ever changing circumstances and conditions.  Professional actors who tour with man-made scenery to indoor theatres do not face that challenge.  Taking Flight Theatre overcomes it with ease.
Did I mention that the cast are disabled?  You would scarcely know.  None, however, has any impairment of spirit.  Their work is a revelation of theatrical truth, vividly understood and portrayed; and their outreach programme encouraged other young people with special needs, from a wide range of schools and drama groups, to present an energetic prologue that captured the carnival spirit of the forest in the play and the life of the villages around it.
I noticed that passers-by in the street beyond the park gates were pausing to watch and hear the marvel that was taking place under the greenwood trees.  At the conclusion they joined their voices to the roar of acclaim that arose from the audience in the park and with them applauded with gusto.  The production serves the cast, of course, but it is clear to those who saw the whole play, and to all who peered at a portion of it through the park railings, that the cast serves the whole community in every town they visit with their tremendous performance.  What they bring to us all is, in fact, a priceless source of inspiration for our worried world.
Michael Read