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A1 Shakespeare: 'As You Like It'

All the world’s a stage, at least it is at Hurtwood, as our narrator notes early on, ‘the free and easy world of Hurtwood. Well – not exactly free, but it certainly is easy’. Perhaps a little unfair for the A2s who have just slogged through their exams, but with the summer holiday on the horizon, it’s certainly starting to feel that way. All signs point to another free-wheeling Shakespeare performance in the amphitheatre. The prosecco is flowing. Let the entertainment begin!

It’s the Summer of Love, 1967. There are hippies playing acoustic ballads, handing out bead necklaces, dream catchers and comically huge smoking paraphernalia. There’s smoke bombs, fireworks, fake turds and boxing matches, whilst the Mayoress of Dorking (the Duke in Shakespeare’s playful 1599 original) looks on aghast, as her daughter and niece play merry, cross-dressing havoc.

Rosalind and Celia escape class oppression by doing what teenagers have always done when they want to stick it to their parents: going to a music festival. The selection of acoustic covers from Dylan et al set the mood, whilst the plucky young things fall in love with each other, break each others’ hearts, carve terrible love poetry into trees, and shower each other with petals.

The fantastic noise and bustle of this slapstick show is what really comes through. The players move with energy and vigour from start to finish, making incredible use of the space, disappearing and reappearing from the hedges, the stairs and the balcony with gleeful speed. Streamers and bunting are strewn across the arena, and baggy, bell-bottomed jeans adorned the actors. The sheer joy of Shakespeare’s writing comes through here, the laughter intermingled with genuinely poignant moments.

It was beautiful chaos. Some things went wrong, but it was so good to perform it in front of such a great audience and feel the energy. It’s great to perform to an actual audience. It’s a pantomime. You need the audience’s reaction to make it real, to know how to move. There were so many people! Olivia was amazing! – Bella

The brownies were great. I lost five spliffs. I lost all the weed. My true, favourite, moment is when I throw a dog. That’s where I spark. You really have to rehearse it. There’s always a drama teacher there next to me and it’s a lovely moment. - Olivia

We felt the ups and downs and we pulled it together. It was amazing working with everyone. Now that it's not there, my days are empty. – Holly

The shows were great fun and brought the cast together. I sometimes struggle with Shakespeare but this play was really exciting and I learnt a lot performing it. - Naomi

The language of Shakespeare can be challenging to say the least, especially with rhythm, and trying to communicate the meaning to a modern audience. It was an enjoyable experience, with an interesting collection of actors who suited their roles, and felt rewarding - especially in the end. It was also intriguing to play an empowered (but slightly wicked) female character.


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