As You Like It/Madcap Theatre Productions

THIS is a relatively young company of travelling players and the vibrancy of youth oozes from every pore.

Once again, these irreverent Madcaps from north Worcestershire have taken a Shakespeare classic, eased it and squeezed it, blessed it and pressed it until the Tudor pips have been sent flying into orbit.

As You Like It certainly ticks all the Bard’s boxes. It’s a tale of banishment, disguise, women pretending to be men, dashing and dastardly dolts and – best of all – the whole shebang is set in the poet’s beloved Forest of Arden, that sacred temple of trees wherein lurks all manner of magic and mayhem.

And it’s in the latter department that the Madcaps excel. Claire Seller (Rosalind) and the fearsomely multi-talented Matilda Bott make for a fine team, a kind of arboreal not to say surreal double act, flitting through the sylvan glades like songbirds just freed from a cage.

Orlando (Robert Moore), meanwhile, gets caught up in plenty of sibling sulkiness with Oliver (Oisin Porter) who amazingly becomes less of a beastly cad when he swaps verbal swordplay for comic cuts as the highly entertaining idiot Touchstone.

Beth Johnston as Celia accompanies the hyper Rosalind on her forest odyssey, matching the minx with her woodland wordplay, while Patricia Hobday gets plenty of laughs sporting a frighteningly realistic beard.

And once again, Nick Baldock cuts his usual fine figure in the dukes department, without which no Shakespeare play would be complete.

Full marks must also go to Emma Leigh, who was obliged to leave her director’s chair and tread the boards after a member of the cast was suddenly called away.

Madcap Theatre is one of several companies in Britain that have surgically removed the stuffy, high culture associations that have dogged interpretations of the Bard’s work down the centuries... and that is why we look forward to the return next year of this talented team to Worcester’s Greyfriars garden.

John Phillpott