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 Connecting professional and amateur theatre in Newbury, West Berkshire and beyond

Watermill Theatre

Box office

01635 46044.

The Watermill Theatre, Bagnor, Newbury, RG20 8AE. A map is here. A seating plan is here.

The Watermill Theatre has appointed Claire Murray as Executive Director – a new role that has recently been created. Claire will support and work closely alongside Paul Hart, who remains Artistic Director/CEO, as well as the Board of Trustees, to deliver the strategic aims and objectives of the theatre, helping to create a high-quality, balanced artistic programme delivered by world-class creative teams and casts, and leading the operational teams to ensure the smooth running of the organisation.

Claire Murray said, “I'm over the moon to be joining Paul Hart and the team at The Watermill as Executive Director. The company is renowned for its artistic brilliance, and its engagement and participation programme makes a vital difference to thousands of people every year. The Watermill consistently punches above its weight; this beautiful, compact theatre has a mighty impact. At a time when its contribution to a thriving cultural sector and to the health and wellbeing of its communities is more important than ever, I’m excited to be appointed to this new position to build on The Watermill’s success for future generations.”

Paul Hart said, “We are really looking forward to welcoming Claire to the Watermill. We have grown hugely as an organisation in recent years and Claire’s experience and passion is going to be invaluable as we continue to develop. Despite the difficulties of the last year, it’s a hugely exciting time for us with our summer season opening at the end of this week and shows launching in the West End and on tour so I’m thrilled for Claire to be joining the team at this time.”


Reviews of As You Like It

24th June 2021 to 24th July 2021

Review from Newbury Theatre.

The Watermill Ensemble directed by Paul Hart are back for another Shakespeare production and the programme puts a lot of emphasis on the Watermill’s commendable commitment “to integrating sustainability and environmental awareness into everything we do”. The multipurpose set is made of recycled wood and oil drums; a double bass and a bicycle are at the side waiting to be repaired.

The stage faces the Watermill’s mature trees, adding to the forest impression and the cast weave in and out of the audience, bringing them into the story.

In Duke Frederick’s court scruffy Orlando faces up to his smartly dressed elder brother Oliver, who in revenge gets the court wrestler to take him on. Orlando wins against the odds and mightily impresses Rosalind. The family relationships are complicated, but Frederick is easily offended and Orlando is forced to leave, followed in short order by Rosalind (who then dresses as a man and calls herself Ganymede) and her best friend and cousin Celia. Off they all go to the Forest of Arden and join up with exiled Duke Senior, who seems much more fun than Frederick.

Then it starts to get complicated… but hey, this is Shakespeare. Go with the flow. And the flow is helped along with a generous smattering of songs, modern(ish) from the Beach Boys and Ronan Keating to Mumford & Sons and Taylor Swift. These sort of fit in with the text and are beautifully played and sung by the cast using a variety of wooden stringed instruments (plus a trombone and percussion). We also get a selection of songs from Orlando to set us up for the second half which he encourages us to join in with, including Sweet Caroline morphing into Sweet Rosaline.

Ned Rudkins-Stow as Orlando and Katherine Jack as Rosaline/Ganymede work well together; he perfectly combines the macho wrestler and the lover, frustrated by her teasing. Emma Manton is a surprisingly cheerful Jacques. Emma Barclay’s Touchstone bounced with energy; she tells the story of Audrey and William with dolls and a fair bit of violence. Enchanting.

Ami Okumura Jones plays three very different parts. First as Duke Frederick’s intimidated PA, then as Amiens with a lovely singing voice, and as Phebe being nasty to Silvius and falling for Ganymede. I very much liked this performance. The play ended with a rousing version of Set My Soul on Fire.

The epilogue from Rosalind was replaced with a 2021 version with an environmental message: if we don’t want a world without birds and flowers we have to be better at making changes for a brighter tomorrow.

The Watermill Ensemble always give us an interesting new look at Shakespeare plays with an enthusiastic young cast and added music, which here fits in easily with the text.


Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

Oh yes! this is just as we like it

Watermill gardens transform into the Forest of Arden for Ensemble's summer Shakespeare

Watermill Ensemble: As You Like It. At The Watermill, Bagnor until July 24

It was delightful to return to The Watermill for their summer outdoor season in the beautiful gardens, and what better production than the pastoral Shakespeare’s play As You Like It, adapted by Yolanda Mercy?

Katie Lias’s industrial set littered with oil drums, rustic door frames and windows, wooden ladders and general detritus – constructed from recyclable sustainable materials – reflected the turmoil existing in the court of the Duke Frederick, played by Omar Baroud. He has usurped his brother Duke Senior (Jamie Satterthwaite) who has fled to the Forest of Arden to live in exile.

Trouble abounds between Orlando (Ned Rudkins-Stow), who has been deprived of his rightful fortune by Oliver (Yazdan Qafouri), his older brother.

Katherine Jack is impressive as Rosalind, the heroine of the piece, who flees from the Duke’s mistrust of her to the forest with Orlando. She has fallen in love him, much to the bewilderment of her cousin Celia (Chanelle Modi) who accompanies her.

Tom Sowinski plays Orlando’s loyal servant Adam and the old shepherd Corin with conviction.

Rosalind has disguised herself as a boy so things get very complicated on the romantic front. Accompanying her is Touchstone, a spirited performance by Emma Barclay who provides much of the comedy fun. Her many multi-coloured costumes were true panto.

The actor/musician style, which has become a trademark of Watermill’s productions continues with some modern folksy music featuring a song list that included Mumford and Sons and The Beach Boys among many others. There is a lovely touch when the audience join in singing Sweet Rosalind to the tune of Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline.

Emma Manton as Jaques delivers one of the most famous of Shakespearean speeches, “All the world’s a stage” and is a powerful observer of the unfolding actions. There is strong support from Ami Okumura Jones who enthusiastically plays numerous parts as well as a ‘mean’ ukulele. The confusion and tumult is resolved in a happy ending, with multiple weddings. But the party strongly brings home a 2021 message, with the cast displaying placards supporting social issues such a climate changes, LGBTQA+ rights, racial and gender equality.

Jack persuasively delivers the epilogue and to the sound of The War and Treaty’s Set My Soul On Fire the versatile cast explode on stage in a joyful celebration.

Paul Hart directs with a freshness and playful confidence, making full use of The Watermill’s garden, in this highly enjoyable production that embraces the urgency to protect our planet.


Review from The Guardian.

Four stars
eco-Shakespeare makes case for rewilding

With Paul Hart’s production blending into the theatre grounds, the pastoral comedy here becomes an effective vehicle to reflect on our relationship with nature

It is not often you hear Taylor Swift and the Beach Boys in Shakespeare. But pop music works up the romantic atmosphere in Yolanda Mercy’s adaptation of the pastoral comedy, directed by Paul Hart. Staged in the Watermill’s verdant grounds (weeping willows, ducks, gushing water), the actors sing and play a blend of folksy guitar, ukulele, bass, harp and flute.

Its bigger message is on environmental change and Katie Lias’s set design carries that symbolism: the court, filled with empty oil drums, is part construction site and part derelict greenhouse where characters wear hard-hats and hi-vis vests. The lush forest of Arden blends into the theatre’s grounds so that we are not only told that “all the world’s a stage” but understand that this stage is our own world, too, and needs rewilding. Actors walk among us to blur the boundaries further.

When the banished Duke Senior (Jamie Satterthwaite) speaks of learning lessons from nature in Arden (“tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones and good in everything”), there are echoes of our own state of exile during the pandemic that, for some, revealed birdsong and the proximities of nature.

The cast exudes an easy chemistry in this story of tyrant siblings, crisscrossing passions and disguise, the actors becoming increasingly sure in their parts. Omar Baroud, who plays both Duke Frederick and the more hapless Silvius, performs a fantastic double act with Ami Okumura Jones as Phebe, the subject of Silvius’s unrequited passion. There are other sparkling turns, from Emma Barclay’s Touchstone, who plays the harp and gives us a charming puppet drama, to Katherine Jack’s steely Rosalind.

The only off-note comes with Mercy’s epilogue on climate and sustainability. Actors bring on placards and it feels like a jarring lecture, but is soon swallowed up by a rousing last song – a rendition of Set My Soul on Fire.

A fine example of how to modernise Shakespeare, all the more spellbinding for the greater stage of the natural world around us.


There are reviews from What's On Stage ("marvel at how Hart and his company have found the extraordinary, even urgent, contemporary resonance of Shakespeare – without losing the play's magic and humour in this haunting production" - ★★★★), Wokingham Today ("an almost mystical sparkle that often made my skin tingle with pleasure... this is undoubtedly a triumph"), The Stage ("the pace and invention of this production bring new vigour to an old favourite" - ★★★), Musical Theatre Review ("a folk-inspired immersive soundscape" - ★★★).

Reviews in the Archive

The Hound of the Baskervilles (May 2021)
A Christmas Carol (December 2020)
Lone Flyer (October 2020)
Bloodshot (September 2020)
Camelot (August 2020)
The Hound of the Baskervilles (July 2020)
The Wicker Husband (March 2020)
The Prince and the Pauper (November 2019)
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (February 2020)
One Million Tiny Plays About Britain (February 2020)
Assassins (September 2019)
Kiss Me, Kate (July 2019)
Our Church (June 2019)
The Importance of Being Earnest (May 2019)
Amélie (April 2019)
Macbeth (February 2019)
Robin Hood (November 2018)
Murder For Two (January 2019)
Jane Eyre (October 2018)
Trial by Laughter (September 2018)
Sweet Charity (July 2018)
Jerusalem (June 2018)
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (May 2018)
Burke and Hare (April 2018 and on tour)
Digging For Victory Senior Youth Theatre (March 2018)
The Rivals (March 2018)
Teddy (January 2018)
The Borrowers (November 2017)
Under Milk Wood (October 2017)
Loot (September 2017)
The Picture of Dorian Gray (September 2017 and on tour)
A Little Night Music (July 2017)
All at Sea! (July 2017)
The Miller's Child (July 2017)
Nesting (July 2017 and on tour)
House and Garden (May 2017)
See Newbury Dramatic Society for a review of Maskerade (May 2016)
Twelfth Night (April 2017)
Faust x2 (March 2017)
Murder For Two (January 2017)
Sleeping Beauty (November 2016)
Frankenstein (October 2016)
The Wipers Times (September 2016)
Crazy For You (July 2016)
Watership Down (June 2016)
Untold Stories (May 2016)
See Box Theatre Company for a review of The Sea (April 2016)
One Million Tiny Plays About Britain (April 2016 and on tour)
Romeo and Juliet (February 2016)
Tell Me on a Sunday (January 2016)
Alice in Wonderland (November 2015)
Gormenghast (November 2015) - see the Youth page
The Ladykillers (September 2015)
Oliver! (July 2015)
A Little History of the World (July 2015 and on tour)
Between the Lines (July 2015)
The Deep Blue Sea (June 2015)
Far From the Madding Crowd (April 2015)
Tuxedo Junction (March 2015)
The Secret Adversary (February 2015)
Peter Pan (November 2014)
But First This (October 2014)
Twelfth Night (November 2014) - see the Youth page
Journey's End (September 2014)
Calamity Jane (July 2014)
The Boxford Masques - Joe Soap's Masquerade (July 2014)
Hardboiled - the Fall of Sam Shadow (July 2014)
A Bunch of Amateurs (May 2014)
See Box Theatre Company for a review of The Canterbury Tales (May 2014)
Sense and Sensibility (April 2014)
Life Lessons (March 2014)
All My Sons (February 2014)
The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (January 2014)
Pinocchio (November 2013)
Sherlock's Last Case (September 2013)
Romeo+Juliet (September 2013 and on tour)
The Witches of Eastwick (July 2013)
Laurel & Hardy (June 2013)
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (May 2013)
The Miser (April 2013)
David Copperfield (March 2013)
Sleuth (February 2013)
Arabian Nights (November 2012)
The Tempest (September 2012)
Thoroughly Modern Millie (August 2012)
Boxford Masques (July 2012)
Ben Hur (June 2012)
Of Mice and Men (May 2012)
Love on the Tracks (April 2012 and on tour)
Henry V and The Winter's Tale (April 2012)
Lettice and Lovage (February 2012)
The Wind in the Willows (November 2011)
Some Like It Hotter (November 2011 and on tour)
Great Expectations (September 2011)
Radio Times (August 2011)
The Marriage of Figaro (July 2011)
Moonlight and Magnolias (May 2011)
Richard III and The Comedy of Errors (April 2011)
The Clodly Light Opera and Drama Society (March 2011)
Relatively Speaking (February 2011)
Treasure Island (November 2010)
Single Spies (September 2010)
Copacabana (July 2010)
Daisy Pulls It Off (June 2010)
Brontë (April 2010)
Raising Voices (March 2010)
Confused Love (March 2010)
Heroes (February 2010)
James and the Giant Peach (November 2009)
Educating Rita (October 2009)
Spend Spend Spend! (July 2009 and September 2010)
Blithe Spirit (May 2009)
Bubbles (April to May and September to October 2009)
A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Merchant of Venice (March 2009)
Life X 3 (January 2009)
Matilda and Duffy's Stupendous Space Adventure (November 2008)
The Sirens' Call (November 2008)
Our Country's Good (September 2008)
See Newbury Dramatic Society for a review of The Recruiting Officer (October 2008)
Sunset Boulevard (July 2008)
Boxford Masques - Knight and Day (July 2008)
Black Comedy and The Bowmans (May 2008)
London Assurance (April 2008)
Micky Salberg's Crystal Ballroom Dance Band (April 2008 and on tour)
Great West Road (March 2008)
Merrily We Roll Along (March 2008)
Honk! (November 2007)
Rope (September 2007)
Martin Guerre (July 2007)
Twelfth Night (June 2007)
The Story of a Great Lady (April and September 2007, and on tour)
The Rise and Fall of Little Voice (April 2007)
For Services Rendered (March 2007)
Plunder (January 2007)
The Snow Queen (November 2006)
Peter Pan in Scarlet (October 2006)
The Taming of the Shrew (September 2006 and on tour in 2007)
Hot Mikado (July 2006 and September 2009)
Boxford Masques: The Crowning of the Year (July 2006)
Hobson's Choice (May 2006)
Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea (April 2006)
Tartuffe (February 2006)
The Jungle Book (November 2005)
The Gilded Lilies (October 2005)
Copenhagen (September 2005)
The Garden of Llangoed (September 2005 and September 2006)
Thieves' Carnival (July 2005)
The Shed (July 2005)
Mack and Mabel (May 2005)
The Odyssey (May 2005)
Broken Glass (April 2005)
The Winter's Tale (January 2005)
Arabian Nights (December 2004)
See Newbury Dramatic Society for a review of Whose Life is it Anyway? (November 2004)
Multiplex (November 2004)
Neville's Island (September 2004)
The Comedian (September 2004 and March 2005)
Raising Voices Again (September 2004)
Pinafore Swing (July 2004)
The Venetian Twins (May 2004)
The Gentleman from Olmedo (April 2004)
Mr & Mrs Schultz (March 2004 and on tour)
Sweeney Todd (February 2004)
The Emperor and the Nightingale (November 2003)
See Newbury Dramatic Society for a review of An Ideal Husband (November 2003)
A Star Danced (September 2003)
The Fourth Fold (September 2003)
The Last Days of the Empire (July 2003)
Accelerate (July 2003)
Dreams from a Summer House (May 2003)
The Triumph of Love (April 2003)
Gigolo (March 2003)
Raising Voices (March 2003)
A Midsummer Night's Dream (February 2003)
The Firebird (November 2002)
Ten Cents a Dance (September 2002)
Dancing at Lughnasa (July 2002)
Love in a Maze (June 2002)
Fiddler on the Roof (April 2002)
I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls (March 2002 and March 2006)
Only a Matter of Time (February 2002)
Cinderella and the Enchanted Slipper (November 2001)
Piaf (October 2001)
The Merchant of Venice (October 2001)
Witch (September 2001)
The Clandestine Marriage (August 2001)
The Importance of Being Earnest (May 2001)
Gondoliers (March 2001)
Rose Rage (February 2001)
Carmen (July 2000)