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Review: As You Like It, Clwyd Theatr Cymru. Directed by Terry Hands

After thirty hours without food and two nights without sleep (thanks to a stomach bug), I wasn’t in great shape to see Clwyd Theatr Cymru’s As You Like It. I was rotten. The play was superb.

An immensely strong cast was led by Hedydd Dylan and Alex Felton. He played Orlando with unforced charm and humour while she was captivating as Rosalind. Feisty, playful and vibrant, she is a natural comic actor and was last year a storming Katerina in Theatr Clwyd’s Taming of the Shrew, (also directed by Terry Hands). Dylan and Felton were well supported by a brilliant cast.

Philip Bretherton as Jacques delivered the ‘seven ages’ speech with restrained and angry contempt, physically apart on stage as he was emotionally isolated from the Duke and his companions. Another notable performance was by Christian Patterson as increasingly dishevelled and lecherous Touchstone, while hilarious late cameos were added by Katie Elin-Salt as Phoebe and Elin Phillips as Audrey.

The sets and staging at Theatr Clwyd are invariably impressive. As You Like It was starkly minimalist. Gaunt, black vertical trunks created the Forest of Arden but clever use of lighting conveyed magical effects of moonlight and sunrise – and with only sparse additional scenery and a shower of fluttering golden foil the play ended with a wonderfully evoked pastoral. Clwyd Theatr Cymru is based in Mold, its associate actors almost all Welsh. With only two cast members born outside Wales the production has a rich and pleasing regional flavour, broader accents used to huge comic effect.

When so many Welsh cultural institutions are based in the south, we are privileged to have a gem like Theatr Clwyd in the north. We are also fantastically lucky that for the last fifteen years Terry Hands has been its Director. He brings huge intelligence, insight and flair to his work and almost never fails to deliver top quality productions. I was once slightly underwhelmed by his staging of Under Milk Wood, but that was in 2000, so perhaps he hadn’t yet hit full stride. As You Like It is another amongst his many triumphs.

On leaving the theatre I was told by a friend I looked considerably better at the end of the evening than at its beginning – yet more proof of the regenerative power of art. I went home. As You Like It travels to Swansea and Cardiff in March. South Wales will love it. Good health or bad.

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