The Oxford Companion to English Literature comments on Shakespeare’s As You Like it “entertainment rather than plot dominates this play” and confirms that it contains more songs than any other of the bard. Indeed, we hear them sung in harmonies, accompanied on the ukulele and wooden flutes. Open Bar‘s signature costume change whirlwinds blast through the actors from character to character, accents are being juggled and the scenery moved through subtle props to maximum effect. The troupe embraces every opportunity to be outstaged wholeheartedly by their enthusiastic audience, who clearly loves to laugh – according to the raised hands, most have seen them here before.
The setting of this play firstly registered in 1599, the forest of Arden comes from Warwickshire (or possibly Belgium) to the King & Queen’s car park in Caterham on the Hill in Surrey. The weather has been miserable over the last couple of weeks and cautiously I arrive in wellies and hand warmers in my pockets while others have wrapped up in transparent rain ponchos. Open air festival vibes, but more of the DocMartens type than hot pants and flipflops. And that’s bonding: We exchange memories with fellow visitors about last year’s show, and even Open Bar’s online Christmas special last year.
The bar does an amazing Pimms with strawberries and lime as it should be, and if the weather needs a reminder that we are in the middle of summer FFS, take my drink order straight from the very reliable app. My strategy works: The cloud panorama stays dramatic if not threatening. But not a single droplet of rain will fall during the performance, also not in the much shorter second act when I have moved to hot tea to keep warm. Others order more hotdogs and burgers on the ongoing barbecue.
Last year when we were here, we saw bats and moths fluttering in the stage lights. Tonight, we see swarms of pigeons and parakeets, and even an alley cat wants to know what’s going on. The next day, the rain stops just in time for the afternoon performance of As You Like It. The weather god of Caterham is a fan, and so are we!
**** out of 5 stars
Tickets were £18 each, advanced booking recommended.
We Are Open are continued their Shakespeare tour and will hopefully be back next summer.