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Review: Public Acts' As You Like It is an impressive showcase of community and diversity

PUBLISHED: 15:09 28 August 2019 | UPDATED: 15:15 28 August 2019

The cast of Public Acts' As You Like It production at Queen's Theatre in Hornchurch. Picture: Camilla Greenwell

The cast of Public Acts' As You Like It production at Queen's Theatre in Hornchurch. Picture: Camilla Greenwell

Archant

After seeing the National Theatre's musical adaptation of Pericles last year I couldn't wait to see what their next production would look like.

Ebony Jonelle and Linford Johnson in the Public Acts production of As You Like It at Queen's Theatre. Picture: Camilla GreenwellEbony Jonelle and Linford Johnson in the Public Acts production of As You Like It at Queen's Theatre. Picture: Camilla Greenwell

Shakespeare's pastoral comedy As You Like It was a fitting choice for theatre initiative Public Acts' second performance following its successful first production.

Orlando, Duke Senior, his daughter Rosalind and niece Celia are forced from their homes by tyrannical Duke Frederick.

They escape to the Forest of Arden, a fantastical place where everyone is welcome.

With feuding families and lovers in disguise, As You Like It appears to be your typical comedy musical.

The cast of Public Acts' As You Like It production at Queen's Theatre in Hornchurch. Picture: Camilla GreenwellThe cast of Public Acts' As You Like It production at Queen's Theatre in Hornchurch. Picture: Camilla Greenwell

It's transformed by an incredibly diverse cast of more than 100 people including professional actors and various performance groups.

Despite the amount of people on stage, the show moves smoothly between the brightly coloured sets.

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Adapted by Laurie Woolery and Shaina Taub and directed by Douglas Rintoul from the Queen's Theatre, the musical had me laughing and smiling at throughout.

The cast of Public Acts' As You Like It production at Queen's Theatre in Hornchurch. Picture: Camilla GreenwellThe cast of Public Acts' As You Like It production at Queen's Theatre in Hornchurch. Picture: Camilla Greenwell

There was lots to enjoy, with a lively drum show from the Dhol Academy, exciting wrestling tricks from the London School of Lucha Libre and vocals from The Community Gospel Choir.

Beth Hinton-Lever as the melancholic Jacques, Ebony Jonelle as Rosalind and Rohan Reckord as Duke Senior showed off their impressive vocal skills in the musical's catchy tunes.

Vedi Roy as the mischievous clown, Touchstone, and Lionford Johnson as the bold Orlando proved that Shakespeare translates well into rap with some hilarious, witty rhymes in their love ballads.

It wasn't just the professional cast who wowed the audience, with young performers like Shreyasvi Acharya singing a solo that brought tears to people's eyes.

A cast member with Vedi Roy as Touchstone in the Public Acts production of As You Like It at Queen's Theatre. Picture: Camilla GreenwellA cast member with Vedi Roy as Touchstone in the Public Acts production of As You Like It at Queen's Theatre. Picture: Camilla Greenwell

Public Acts performances are a major collaborative effort with community partners such as the Havering Asian Social Welfare Association (Haswa), DABD, a charity for people with disabilities in Dagenham, Body & Soul, and the Bromley by Bow Centre.

The standing ovations at the end of the musical were well deserved for such an impressive feat of theatre.

As You Like It played at Queen's Theatre in Billet Lane from August 24 to 27.

For more information about Public Acts visit nationaltheatre.org.uk/about-the-national-theatre/our-national-work/public-acts.

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