As You Like It
Taking Flight Theatre Company
In this beautiful weather that Cardiff has been blessed with recently, the beginning of outdoor theatrical activity is very much welcomed. The first example of this so far sees Taking Flight Theatre Company taking over Thompson Park to bring us a Shakespearian favourite.
In the sun spots of the park, we are treated to a story about the daughter (Rosalind) of a banished Duke and her love at first site meeting with a gentleman called Orlando. The Duke’s brother has a sudden change of heart and banishes Rosalind, soon with her cousin Celia in toe. The women decide to run away to the forest where Rosalind’s father lives in exile. In the meantime, Rosalind dresses as a man and Celia takes on a new persona also. In a chance meeting, Orlando and Rosalind meet, and still dressed as a man, Rosalind plots to help Orlando with his intentions to woo her. Many encounters of confusion arise in this comical plot and Rosalind can be the only one to rectifies the situations.
Taking Flight began the show with audience interaction. Throughout, this was used but in subtle ways, whether this be a glance or use of audience for prop or even referrals to them. In this promenade performance, these subtle actions worked well to compliment the audience in the action and invited us to be involved. This even began with pre-show interaction in what was set out as a shabby circular staging area. Minimal set and props were used through the show, which was very appropriate as the acting was given space to stand out. The surrounding park area was effectively used as the stage, with a great use of levels in the trees and upon valley parts, pathways and hills.
The company brought a bit of personalisation to the piece with the actors use of musical abilities – the performers played a range of instruments and performed their own written songs for the production. This helped to break scenes and move the audience as well as provide elements of comedy. The folksy sounds also gave the performance a lovely summer feeling as well, especially in such a lovely setting.
For a substantial sized company, the use of doubled up characters was still effectively possible. Those who played more than one part were given a change of costumes, all costumes of which were of fantastic, bohemian quality, and easily managed to change characters. At times, it was a mystery to whether the actor was the same as the change of performances were so convincing. For a Shakespearian comedy, the facial expressions, gestures and movements were conducted in exaggerated fashion as would have been in the writers age, but not too much as they would have had to compensate for lack of light – all actors managed this with enough emphasis to bring comedy and to put across the narrative well.
Hijinx theatre company also had a fantastic involvement in the production. The joining of the two companies involved performers from Hijinx in both performative ways as well as ushering. This involvement evidently meant a great deal to those involved who enjoyed the comedy and to share a piece of the music and dance elements. A sign interpreter was also used which was great to see, opening many more possibilities; she was also integrated into the performance itself rather than a separate entity, including the final song’s dance moves, elegantly gesturing sign language to illustrate the song, and this was taught to the performers to create a lovely, happy and comical crescendo.
Overall, this show is fun filled and a great way to introduce Shakespeare to the young. In such great weather, Thompson Park is a great place to see this production and the company use this well to also introduce you to this great space. If wishing to attend, I would only say to not bring a lot (including deck chairs and such) as this promenade performance will move you quite a bit and did see a few audience members carrying much around with them, but plenty of safe access is possible for wheelchairs, despite this.