Review: Harlow Theatre Co: Ensemble Shakespeare at its finest

Lifestyle / Thu 10th Jul 2014 at 08:40am

By Michael Casey

Review: As You Like It..Harlow Theatre Company..July 9th. Victoria Hall.

THERE IS a good reason why most amateur theatre companies do not attempt Shakespeare: It is very hard to do. So it is a measure of the quality of the work of the Harlow Theatre Company that they not only attempted As You Like It but they produced a wonderful, vivacious, pitch perfect performance at the Victoria Hall Theatre on Wednesday night.

The first thing that impressed this reviewer was the programme, which was a poster on one side and had all the content you needed on the other. It was tied up with a neat piece of green string in the form of a parchment.

The performance began with a brilliant touch. But we don’t want to give the surprise away so….

The costumes were a dazzle of colour and so credit must go to Joce Johnson.

So onto Shakespeare. It began with a fight but it also began with Joe Bishop taking centre stage as Orlando. This was a very confident but controlled performance by Joe. It is not the meatiest of roles but then again, the stars in As You Like It are the lesser roles such as Touchstone and Jaques.

Paul Johnson’s Touchstone was a bawdy delight. He kept reminding this reviewer of Mock the Week’s Andy Parsons doing The Bard. But Paul, very much his own actor, produced a performance full of vocal and facial ticks, inflections and comedic sleight of hand.

Mitch Rous’s Jaques was a menacing presence throughout. Full of misery more than menace but his monologue “All the world’s a stage” was powerful and worth the entrance fee alone.

The role of Rosalind was played by Pamela Self-Pierson. It is an easy role for a female actress to miscalculate and feel they need to emote a little bit too much but Pamela brought an assured confidence to the role. Pamela performed particularly well when as Ganymede, she tries to draw in Orlando but gently repel the smitten Phebe.

There was so much to see and so much to reflect upon. So much that a review may not do justice to: the menace of the Duke’s family in the opening scenes, all dark shades and fascist glances. The wonderful simpleton William (great hat!), the bawdy Audrey and her many layers! Yusuke Ilzuka managed to produce two very contrasting performances, especially his Corin. As did Paul Gough as he played both Dukes.

The whole play was very well directed, making full use of the space and theatre. It had discipline, pace and verve.

This was ensemble acting at its finest. We have to say that in our first year as an on-line newspaper, Harlow Theatre Company have been one of the treasures of the town.

As the cast left the building at the end of the play, this reviewer (sorry, he was dashing home for the penalty shoot out!) heard a cast member say: “We did it” You did it and how….

Detail of the three more nights can be found here

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