Firstly, let me say that I did like it! Time passed quickly while I was watching this production, which is always a good sign.
The physical energy of this production was evident from the outset, with the sparring between the two brothers practically spilling over into the audience. However it was in Scene II, with the arrival on stage of Rosalind (Clare Langford) and Celia (Gabrielle Curtis), that the emotional and intellectual content became equally apparent, drawing this reviewer fully into the narrative. From this point onwards, with one or two exceptions, the pace continued unabated, and, before we knew it, we had reached the interval. The second half was, if anything, more engaging than the first, with one scene blending seamlessly into another, so that on reaching the final wedding scene and closing epilogue, one was left still wishing for more.
Rosalind and Celia were each imbued with a spirit of liveliness and playfulness by the respective actors, both of whom spoke Shakespeare’s words as naturally as modern-day English. Also excellent in that respect were Yvonne Riley and Owen Nolan: the former bringing a chilling sense of menace to the character of Duke Senior, and the latter playing the bucolic Corin in a very laid-back and credible manner. Owen was also responsible for much of the music, along with Catriona Mackenzie and her haunting flute, using Irish folk ballads to bring the atmosphere of the forest to life.
Will Wheeler and Ryan Wichert gave convincing performances as Orlando and Oliver respectively, and Kate Bancroft (Phebe) and Jeffrey Ho (Silvius) were hilarious in their scenes together, although Silvius was quite camp for a man so passionately in love with a woman! Overall, the company acquitted themselves admirably, capably directed by Marianna Vogt.
There are obvious staging difficulties that arise with a cast of 16 in a venue as small as the White Bear. I had a restricted view for a significant amount of the time, and did not get the full effect of the final scene. It would be nice to see the production on a larger stage, which would also give the director the chance to develop her Tent City theme, to which it was difficult to do justice in such a confined space.
I am told that tickets are selling very well, but there are still a few left, so if you fancy an evening’s romp through the Forest of Arden in the company of some talented performers, then make sure and get yourself down to Kennington one evening this week.
At the White Bear, Kennington 24 – 29 January 201