What I like the most about Union Theatre is the variety of productions they take on, they don't play it safe or stick to easier scripts, they challenge their members and with a dedicated creative team everyone appears to embrace the challenges and the final product shines.
This evening the Solihull-based company are performing Shakespeare's pastoral comedy As You Like It.
The show starts very traditionally with music and dancing as the audience are acquainted with the entire cast. Faces glow with enthusiasm and delight, there is a magic in the air this opening night. Warm, attractive costumes flatter the eye, with decadent crushed velvet and exquisite top hats decorated with sheer ribbon and feathers.
The company have the ability to bring Shakespeare's words to life on the stage and though many performers have taken on multiple roles, not one word falls out of place. Scenes flow smoothly, assisted by the talented musicians who form the small band. With music composed, adapted and arranged by John Gough the sounds created are uplifting and full of charm.
The setting of the United Reformed Church has been transformed into a theatre, with a backdrop of dark trees with red leaves that resemble jagged hearts. The production, Directed by Mark Firmstone, makes full use of the venue, using aisles for entrances and exits, bringing the audience closer to the action.
Performers of all ages confidently tread the boards and bring their own personalities to the stage. Marcus Queenborough is wickedly camp and quirky in style, conveying 4 roles throughout. The young James Williams (who plays Dennis) delivers his lines with perfect articulation, and Lucy Williams (Celia) has great stage presence, emitting the most wonderful energy.
Special mention should be given to Sian Heath who plays a terrifying and ruthless Duchess Fredericka. The young and charming Orlando (played by Alex Barber) is well matched by Victoria Ellery-Jones' feisty and determined Rosalind who uses the entirety of her being to express her emotion. Donning male apparel in fear of her safety it is the scenes with Rosalind and Celia that drive the tale of misplaced love, jealousy, deceit and redemption.
For a thoroughly enjoyable evening out do not miss Union Theatre's As You Like It, running until Sat 18 July at Solihull United Reformed Church. Daily performances are at 7:30pm and tickets are available on the door: £10/£9.
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