REVIEW: As You Like It Station Theatre, Hayling Island

As You Like It, with Jessica Hayles centre. Picture by Keith Pattison

How do you like it? Gender and politics in Shakespeare at the New Theatre Royal

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The joy of Shakespeare is his timelessness and the Southsea Shakespeare Actors demonstrate this with their 1960s-based As You Like It

Chock-full of some of the Bard’s favourite devices – banished nobility, women disguised as men and lovers wandering through forests – and some of his most famous words, the piece is very accessible to non-Shakespeare fans.

With Shakespeare, experience tells and here the elder statesmen of the SSA shine. Nick Downes (Corin), Rob Bartlett (Touchstone), Terry Wiseman (Adam) and Neil Gregory-Reader (Jaques) are all worth the ticket-money, but there’s some good work from those with less experience, too.

Aaron Holdaway and Hazel Aspden as Silvius and Phoebe - along with a particularly pleasing Rebecca Davis as Audrey - fly the flag for the raunchy yokels and – in three very thankless parts – Ben Tanner, David Pearson and Jackson Davies impress.

In the pivotal roles of Orlando, Rosalind and Celia, Andrew De Pury, Amy Barlow and Vicky Martin need to trust the great man’s words more and not physically demonstrate so much of the dialogue to the audience.

There was also a good deal of fourth-wall breaking, with dialogue directed to the front that would far better be directed to the other actors on stage.

Great fun, nevertheless. Until Saturday.