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As You Like It
Published on Sunday, 12 August 2012
5

5 stars

C venues - C (venue website)
Theatre
1-18 Aug, 3:30pm-4:50pm
Reviewed by Ellen Macpherson

 Parents or guardians should consider the content of this show if children are attending.

I see a lot of Shakespeare at the Fringe. Some of it’s terrible, most of it’s a bit mediocre, and sometimes – just sometimes – you find an example of exactly what modern Shakespeare should be. Well, for me, this production of As You Like It was that example. The boys from Cambridge have delivered an appropriation of the Bard that doesn’t take itself too seriously and still, even in its comedic success, manages to do justice to those undertones of feminism and homoeroticism that have made As You Like It such a popular and revered play amongst both critics and audiences.

Even just upon seeing the synopsis, I was almost overcome with excitement. I attempted to temper this reaction by reminding myself that high expectations often go nowhere, and lead to blistering and unhelpful reviews. But then the boys from Cambridge University Amateur Dramatic Club opened with a stunningly hilarious performance of Beyonce’s Run the World… and I was a goner.

The best part of this production is its ability to poke fun at itself. It takes that Shakespearean tradition of an all-male cast, and views it in the light of the 21st century. It comes out the other end as something of a caricature, and provides the adaptation with a new dimension of in-jokes. But they draw the line exactly where it’s meant to go; because while Phebe is hysterical as an angry, scorned Latin lady, Rosalind is the definition of perfection, and after a while the fact that I was watching a man play a woman playing a man was irrelevant in light of the excellent delivery of her character.

While they took tradition to new heights, the boys managed also to successfully chuck in a few nods to the modern era – including some excellent Lady-Gaga-esque dancing in the background of certain scenes. It’s just thoroughly refreshing to see a production that is willing to unambiguously take Shakespeare to the present day. Their approach is fearless and as a result, shows that you can still pay respect to a classic playwright even when you’re turning the original upside down.

So, at the end of this review, I would jut like to say that all technicalities here are irrelevant. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face for hours after seeing this. And ultimately, regardless of the nuances of scriptwriting, costuming or themes, it’s that response that counts. It’s £10.50. What are you waiting for? You won’t have more fun than this when you’re doing Shakespeare at the Fringe. 

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These are archived reviews of shows from Edinburgh 2012.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.

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