Our talented students on BA(hons) Acting, Costume and Performance Design, and Make Up for Media and Performance, have been collaborating to produce ‘As If’, after Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’. A thought-provoking, gender-bending concoction of love and comic relief – let’s be honest, it’s just as the artist intended (probably). Being the uncultured swine that I am, I initially found the Shakespearean language a little intimidating, but with everything from enthusiastic singing goats to a chain-smoking melancholy woman, this fresh musical adaptation didn’t hold a single dull moment. The play (well, musical) was performed with two casts, alternating between performing and crewing. I saw cast Y, and though I couldn’t have faulted anyone, and I have no doubt that cast X did a fantastic job, I did particularly enjoy Kieran Luxton’s performance as Celia, and the roles played by Holly McLachlan. Good job guys. I was also impressed by the reconfigurable set, comprising of mirrors and frames, designed by Hiba Al Hussein, and built by Elliott Trent – it was not just functional, but unexpected, unique, and added its own subtle commentary without detracting from the actors’ performances.
I will admit, not knowing anything much about the performance beforehand, when I took my seat I was not expecting to be watching a musical; nevertheless, I was treated to some genuinely great singing, that more than once made me laugh out loud. Not just a gentle smirk or a private giggle; I’m not ashamed to admit, I full-on cackled. ‘As If’ seems very current and relevant as a playful exploration of sexuality and gender, rather than something written by a bloke born in 1564, but these are the gems we should be celebrating from Shakespeare, now more than ever. It’s about playing with identity, and following your heart, with queer romances and characters understanding what they want, and owning it. Unapologetically. The story centres around a love – well, it wasn’t a triangle, maybe a square? Pentagon? Either way, it was a story of “love, lust, and mistaken identities”. Directed by Seb Harcombe, the performance stays true to around 80% of the original text, but further explores the themes and subtexts through adding songs and sonnets, in addition to further diversifying the characters, making this a truly unique interpretation. ‘As If’ will be performed until 2nd December, so pick up a ticket at aub.ac.uk/boxoffice, get yourself down to the studio theatre, and see for yourself.