Last night we went to Fairlght Hall to watch The Lamb Players in ‘As You Like It’. Evening was a bit grey and chilly, but the performance was fabulous! Enjoyed every minute of it. Battleaxe recommends!
It is Lamb House’s loss, but Fairlight Hall’s gain…. The Lamb Players are a fairly loose association of actors, some with distinguished careers, who come together a few times a year to put on productions, mainly of Shakespeare comedies. They were founded in 2009 by the then tenant of Lamb House in Rye – Battleaxe visited and wrote about the changes to the house earlier this month!
Every year, they had an arrangement with the National Trust to put on a summer play in the garden, and also extra events – Battleaxe went to a Henry James 100th birthday reading event in 2016, with Miriam Margolyes.
However, when the National Trust did the recent changes to the house, the contract with the Lamb Players was terminated. A shame, but it is our gain…. In the Lamb House years, the productions were largely the preserve of well-to-do Rye residents, but I was talking to Sarah Kowitz before the start and she said that this year the majority of the audience were from Hastings. There were only four performances, so sadly, you’ve missed it…. better luck next year.
It was indeed a chilly evening, with some pale straks of late sun, but we wrapped up warm, gathered up blankets and set forth. Most in-the-know people had got there earlier and brought picnics – we’d had a day out already, so ate our food before leaving home. However, the Shepherd’s Hut was open for coffee and cake….
I have to say that ‘As you Like it’ has never been one of my favourite Shakespeare plays – the plot is too confusing – but the Lamb Players rattled through it with such brio that it didn’t matter in the least that you didn’t actually have a clue what was going on. They changed genders with impunity – as if there wasn’t enough gender bending in the play already.
In the early productions of the play you’d have had a boy playing Rosalind, impersonating a girl, who would then impersonate a boy, who in turn would impersonate a girl….of course, in this version, Rosalind (Carrie Quinlan) started as a woman…Jacques became a woman – she is the one who delivers the famous Seven Ages of Man speech… and Phoebe and Silvius also swopped genders…. oh, never mind, it really didn’t matter. Madame Jacques (Elaine Claxton) was actually a splendid woman – a bit like the most scary sort of public school games mistress.
The music was great – the play has lots of songs. One number belted out by Touchstone (Jonathan Broadbent) and Audrey (Jessica Regan) brought the house down…. I don’t know if anyone has ever produced ‘As You Like it’ as a musical but it could easily be done.
I can’t single out any of the actors performances for particular praise – they all acted really well and with great enthusisam, and every word was audible. The production was very simple – a few wooden crates as props in the middle of a circle of chairs.
They zipped through it so quickly it scarcely had a chance to get dark, and we were heading home by 8.30. Ideal for a chilly night. We were very glad of the blankets.
Let’s hope they come back to Fairlight Hall next year. If they do, Battleaxe would thoroughly recommend!