It’s a Sunday evening. The sun is setting over the Lancaster skyline. Terraced streets whir by as we wind our way towards the M6.

We’ve just finished a week’s run in The Round, at The Dukes, Lancaster.

It’s not been without its challenges: it was our first stop on the tour, and our first time taking As You Like It on the road. Adapting to a different theatre, different audiences and a different town was definitely a learning curve. That being said, we all fell in love with Lancaster. With it’s friendly locals, cosy pubs and surrounding countryside it’s hard not to.

But, for me, this was a particularly special way to start the tour.

I attended The Dukes Youth Theatre from aged 8 through to 18, whilst living just up the road.

Every Saturday, my mum would drop me off at ‘DT3’ (now The Moor Space) and I’d meet my pals, play drama games, get a taste of working in a theatre company and putting on a show.

My first experience on stage was performing in The Round, where, over 10 year later, I would come back – now as a professional actor – working with Northern Broadsides. Talk about full circle moment.

Performing in Treasure Island with The Dukes Young Company

Before we arrived at The Dukes I pictured myself walking the corridors, my hand brushing the walls as memories flooded back, stepping onto The Round stage, a single tear rolling down my cheek… (cue the violins)

But, on arriving at the theatre, the overall feeling was one of immense familiarity. Like sleeping in your own bed after being away for a while. Here were the red cushioned seats, there was the bar serving local ales, all around the familiar smell of The Dukes that can’t be described to those that haven’t been.

And it’s something I’m so grateful for.

It would have been easy for me to walk into that space, as a person from a working class, low-income background, as someone who’s family are not regular theatre goers, to feel out of place – to feel as though I didn’t belong. But it was the opposite. And that’s all down to my experience with the Youth Theatre and the amazing people that worked there. With the arts sector and arts funding being cut, both in cultural institutions and in education, places like The Dukes are becoming rarer and it was an honour to revisit them to pay homage to where my love of performance stemmed from. They opened to door for me into a professional acting career – a door which led to me performing with Northern Broadsides.

Isobel and EM in As You Like It

Isobel and EM in As You Like It

And that sense of familiarity is something I hope we, as a cast, embody too. I hope that whoever comes to see ‘As You Like It’ can see at least one version of themselves on stage. Someone who looks like them. Someone who sounds like them. Someone who makes them laugh. Someone who makes them feel at home.

Isobel as Celia in As You Like It

And it’s okay if not everything makes sense, if not every joke is funny, if you get distracted by a costume or a prop, if you’ve never been to the theatre before, if you feel like you don’t belong.

Because it’s our job to make sure you do belong. To make sure you feel at home. ‘As You Like It’ is just as the title states – take what you want from our performance, but know that for the 2 and ½ hours you’re sat in the theatre with us, it’s your space as much as it is ours. And we will make sure you feel most welcome.


by Isobel Coward (Celia in As You Like It)