WITH summer now upon us and the World Cup in full swing a night at the theatre might be the last thing on many people’s minds, especially as the works of William Shakespeare have for a long time been seen by many to be largely inaccessible unless you happen to be a staunch enthusiast.

After being given the opportunity to attend the opening night of ‘As You Like It’ at the Ludlow Shakespeare Festival on Saturday evening however there can be no doubt that the production, which has been produced in association with the Stafford Gatehouse Theatre, is helping to give the work of William Shakespeare a new lease of life.

Set in the turbulent but convivial era of the 1960s the play may have been brought forward a few hundred years, but this only helps to highlight the fact that many of the key issues raised – the most predominant of which seems to be our most fundamental desire to be loved and accepted – are still as relevant today as they were when the play was first written.

However one cannot lose sight of the fact that ‘As You Like It’ also happens to be one of William Shakespeare’s most well-known and best loved comedies, and there are also plenty of laughs throughout.

Starring John Challis, of Only Fools and Horses fame in the role of Jacques, and Eric Potts, from Coronation Street as Touchstone, the strength of this particular production lies perhaps not with any one particular cast member but in the strength of the entire ensemble.

Special mention must be given to Georgina White as Rosalind for her brilliant comic timing however, as well as Esther Biddle (Pheobe), Tom Radford (Orlando) and Shirley Darroch (Audrey).

The brilliant actor-musicians who begin to work the audience upon first entering the auditorium right up to the start of Act One must also be credited for keeping the energy within the auditorium going throughout.

One can only imagine the amount of work which has gone into producing this enchanting open air production, but there can be no doubt that the hard work of all involved has clearly paid off.

The simply stunning backdrop in the grounds of Ludlow Castle only adds to the audience’s overall experience – helping to create an evocative atmosphere which could only have been achieved from an open air performance in such a stunning and picturesque setting.

Opportunities to see open air theatre at its absolute best really don’t come around very often. ‘As You Like It’ runs at Ludlow Castle until June 22 and there can be no doubt that this is one production which is not to be missed.