Shakespeare As We Like It

Performed April 21st to 23rd 2016

Directed By

The Cast

With Help From

Anne Lawrence

And

Mike Smith

Shakespeare As We Like It - April 2016

Timely production pays homage to the Bard

WHAT better date to mark the end of a three-night run performing Shakespeare than taking to the stage on the 400th anniversary of his death?

April 23 is also believed to have been the Bard’s birthday and, as people celebrated his life and work around the world, Riding Mill Drama Club staged their very own tribute.

Written by one of the club’s actors, Steve Larkin, and directed by long-serving members Anne Lawrence and Mike Smith, the 15-strong cast took on a host of the most memorable scenes from Shakespeare’s plays in Shakespeare As We Like It.

Hand-picked by the cast themselves, each and every person on stage portrayed the romance, comedy and tragedy like true professionals.

Supported by live music from Colin and Di Dickinson, John MacDonald and Peter Woodward – and the impact of central staging – the performance was memorable.

Will, based on Shakespeare himself, was played masterfully by Graham Lindup, as he fought to keep his merry band of players in line during rehearsals.

A powerful soliloquy from Henry V by Moyra Gardner opened the action and was followed by the intensity of a scene from Macbeth where, amid thunder and lightning, three witches meet to plot their encounter with him.

The witches were played by Frances Hewitt, Susan Cook and Helen Mason.

Frances went on to become the nurse in Romeo and Juliet as she acted the scene alongside Liesl Allcock (Juliet) in which the nurse returns from a secret meeting with Romeo with news about when the pair will be married.

Her clever portrayal of the nurse, who keeps Juliet waiting for news while she catches her breath, was one of my favourite of the entire night.

As for Susan, her confidence as Portia during the quality of mercy speech from The Merchant of Venice, held the attention of the whole audience.

I also spotted nods to The Winter’s Tale, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Richard III and Hamlet throughout the evening.

Roars of laughter drawn by Sandy Gardner as the drunken porter from Macbeth changed the pace to comedy before Steve Larkin and Liesl Allcock took to the stage as lovers Pyramus and Thisbe from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The stand-out moment of the performance for me was when Liesl returned as Desdemona from Othello and sang the mournful folk ballad The Willow Song, in the scene where she is afraid that Othello is wrongly angry with her for being unfaithful.

Her voice was packed full of the haunting melancholy required and drew the loudest applause of the night.

For me, the evening brought memories of many an A-Level English literature class rushing back.

I also left with a renewed appreciation for seeing these important works interpreted on stage.

Shakespeare’s legacy lives on through the work of amateur dramatic groups like Riding Mill Drama Club and it seems safe to conclude, therefore, that “what’s past is prologue.”

GEMMA BROWN

Hexham Courant Link

Review By Peter McKendrick

Justice for the Bard

The 23rd of April 2016 was the 40oth anniversary of the death and reputed birth of William Shakespeare, an event well worthy of national commemoration However, it did seem a touch self-indulgent for the unlikely named Ding Mill Players to seek to honour the Bard through a production titled “Shakespeare as We like it” and, what’s more, expect the good folk of Riding Mill to come along. Was it to be how “they” like it but not to be how “we” like it? That was the question.

The answer came within a few minutes of the notional curtain going up within Riding Mill’s very own Globe Theatre during three memorable nights in April. There was no doubt at all that their feelings were totally mutual! We, the audience, were carried along through a skilfully crafted concentrate of the best of Shakespeare presided over by the Bard himself.

As one might expect there was drama, humour, soliloquy and mystery wrapped in the subtleties of the English language. Much is so familiar and even contemporary in its relevance, but Shakespeare always challenges our intellect and school time memories.

However, “the plays the thing” and the quality of our finest playwright is frequently strained in any production without the most skilful production and acting of a high order. The Ding Players, or Riding Mill Drama Club in partial disguise, totally captured the very essence of Shakespeare in an exciting fast moving and outstanding production.

These were no “rude mechanicals” (although they were there!) but truly remarkable amateur actors brilliantly supported by musicians, back and front of house staff. What’s more they gave the impression through their good humour and enthusiasm that they all enjoyed it every bit as much as we did. The Bard himself would have been proud!

Peter McKendrick

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