Side by Side Theatre Company, serving learning disabled performers from the West Midlands, returns to Paradise in Augustines this year with their adaptation of As You Like It, the Summer of Love-themed As We Like It. Adapted by founder and Artistic Director Susan Wallin, As We Like It condenses the story, adds music, and tailors the play to the talents of the actors.
As We Like It was genuinely fun to watch.
Side By Side specifically set out to have their disabled actors own their performances, without aid from non-disabled helpers, and they clearly achieve this. The performers were all confident, in character, and clearly having a good time whether they carried speaking parts or chorus roles. Part of the Summer of Love update was the inclusion of music throughout, accompanied by choreographed dance numbers performed with aplomb. Several numbers – including an excerpt of Cole Porter’s ‘Friendship’ between Orlando and Adam, a servant who follows him into the forest of Arden – were sung live, mainly by Orlando, who did an excellent job of them. The famous ‘All the World’s a Stage’ monologue (by a character called Jacques, otherwise cut from this adaptation), was also delivered very well, and the comic flourishes by Celia and Rosalind were great fun throughout the production.
Credit must also be given to the Side by Side volunteer production team, whose costumes and scene setting were beautiful and effective. The Forest of Arden hippies were beautifully outfitted and the city-slicker sidekicks of Duke Frederick also had a fantastic look. The scenes were set mainly by a few hat stands decked out in various types of fabric, and were very effective.
As We Like It was genuinely fun to watch. The musical numbers were a pleasant surprise and well delivered, and the inherently silly plot of As You Like It was well adapted (I didn’t miss much from the cut plotlines) and entertainingly delivered.