Theatre review: As You Like It by the Crouch End Players

On Tuesday night a little bit of magic came to Hornsey as the Crouch End Players transformed the old bowling green in Priory Park into the Forest of Arden.

Hardcore Morris dancing, wrestling, fire eating (during the generous interval), goats and a rainbow kept a capacity audience of 400 entranced as they were swept away by the Players’ lively and professional interpretation of Shakespeare’s As You Like It.

A Hornsey local and director Kate Stafford, perhaps fortified by a pre-curtain G&T, set the tone of fun and jollity for this al fresco romp with a few words before the start about what to do if it rained. Predictably there was the briefest of showers but quickly followed by a glorious rainbow.

As someone who loses the plot after five minutes of a typical Murder She Wrote, it is best not to rely on me for a faithful account of the action. It is chock-a- block with dukes, cousins, fools and lovers - each role played with passion and gusto by the Players. Kate encouraged them to engage with the audience and this engendered a willing response – their hurrahs, boos and hisses surely qualifying them for Equity membership.

The double act of Rosalind and Celia was confident and convincing; Angharad Ellis Jones was terrific as the Dylanesque Corin and Dave Jennings’ playful Touchstone wisely veered to philosopher and away from simple clown. Kevin Davis, as Jaques, offered as fine a delivery of the famous

“All the world’s a stage... “ speech as I have heard on any stage.

There was enchanting music by Crouch End’s own Steve Edis and Heather Strongman (as Amiens) revealed a lovely and powerful voice.

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Stage craft was excellent, encouraged by a simple but more than effective set design and Debbie Neal’s costumes contributed much to the sense that we were watching events in a no-where land.

The evening was a triumph for the Players and a vindication of the immense hard work that they had put in to make it happen. Priory Park provided a brilliant backdrop and I hope we will see more productions next year.