Photo: Johan Persson

As You Like It is the first original show programmed by the new-for-2022 @sohoplace theatre in London’s West End. The venue opened in the autumn with a transfer of Marvellous, and is now staging its first show proper in the form of Josie Rourke’s take on this classic Shakespeare comedy.

It’s a delight for the eyes and ears; the venue is gorgeous and what unfolds on-stage is equally appealing to look at. It’s not quite a musical, but there’s certainly a lot of music here; there are songs based on Shakespeare’s sonnets and a grand piano is present throughout, with incidental music underscoring many of the scenes.

Strictly Come Dancing winner Rose Ayling-Ellis takes on the role of an endearing Celia – she’s a joy to watch. The play has not been substantially re-worked to facilitate a deaf actor in a lead role, although there are now surtitles which initially took a little getting used to. Referring to these soon became second nature, however, and there are some amusing sound effects and stage directions captured by the captions.

Starring alongside Rose is an impressive array of talent. We particularly enjoyed Martha Plimpton as Jacques – she had a commanding stage presence and expert comic timing. Leah Harvey and Alfred Enoch made for an excellent and completely believable lead couple as Rosalind and Orlando respectively. We were also rather taken with Allie Daniel who assumed lead vocal duties on many of the bigger songs.

This is an impressive production of As You Like It – it sensitively updates numerous elements of the play and the music has a really accessible pop feel to it, yet it’s recognisably the same show we’ve enjoyed for generations. Following on from previous @sohoplace production Marvellous, it’s also great to see a real commitment to diverse talent on the West End – we don’t know the last time we saw a major London production where one of the leads largely communicates via BSL, and this show manages to promote inclusivity without being preachy. Wonderful stuff.

GAY TIMES gives As You Like It – 4/5

More information can be found here.