Review: As We Like It, Camden People’s Theatre

As We Like It is the third production I’ve seen as part of the Come As You Are Festival at the Camden People’s Theatre. So far, it has been a mixed bag and I’m not sure what to expect from the oddly cryptic summary of the performance, which boasts of “play, drama, sexy moves, music, scripts and scores”.

The stage darkens, the audience shuffle and three young male actors step onto the stage. It becomes quickly clear that the aforementioned “sexy moves” are to play a large part in the process. The men slink around the stage to soft, sensual music, not quite mirroring each other, but keeping in step. They slap their thighs, at first to the music and then with an increasingly competitive spirit.

The 45-minute performance is a mostly non-verbal affair, with only one interlude of speech. Elliot Minogue-Stone sits primly in a chair and proudly tells us how “handy” he is, how good with tools he is and how fast he can run. Essentially, he checks off qualities and skills associated with traditional, and archaic, notions of manliness. The humour found in the juxtaposition of Minogue-Stone’s deliberately effeminate stance and the content of his speech, stop this from feeling like a lecture and instead the audience laugh along with him.

There are some real highlights in this short piece, one of them being the way Tyrrell Foreshaw, an incredibly beautiful dancer, moves around the stage. By this point the men have stripped down to reveal dresses beneath their men’s apparel, and Foreshaw puts the daring slit in his dress to good use. He throws his body elegantly around the stage, writhing sensuously yet managing to keep a playful tone.

This play is made up of a plethora of quick moments; blink and they’re gone. Diogo Fernandes de Jesus roars for a compelling but distressing minute, the men roll a skateboard back and forth in a such a controlled manner that I can only assume it took a wealth of time to master, and don’t forget about the many times highly strung thigh-slapping was called for.

Orley Quick, the choreographer, developed this piece with the Hairy Heroines (the collective name for the performers) and I found that the movements are mostly very slick and make for quite convincing viewing. However, I think unless you had listened to a podcast or read one of Quick’s interviews, you might struggle to get a clear, take-home message from this performance. Quick, Foreshaw, Minogue-Stone and Fernandes de Jesus clearly have a lot to say about gender fluidity and what that means for men in 2017; however, the performance feels like a series of snapshots into this, instead of a clear narrative line. This might be deliberate; the title alludes to the play of a similar name, only to dismiss it. It’s not Shakespeare’s As You Like It, it’s As We Like It. And the play does feel unapologetically as ‘they’ like it. It’s a culmination of their ideas, for you, the willing audience, to observe and muse on.

Let go of any notion of theatrical narrative and get lost with the Hairy Heroines. It’s fluid, comedic and thigh-slappingly energetic.

As We Like It played at the Camden People’s Theatre as part of the Come As You Are Festival until 1 October 2017.

Photo: Emmeline Cresswell