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Five reasons you’ll love As You Like It

Josephine Walsh

I love the minutes just before a play. The hushed anticipation of the audience as they wait for the performance to begin is unique compared to waiting for a movie to start. I imagine the exhilarating mixture of fear and excitement that the performers and crew must be feeling as they wait in the wings. This is the longest amount of time before the play will be over.

I’m quite familiar with Shakespeare but had never studied or watched a performance of As You Like It, one of Shakespeare’s most frequently performed and well-known comedies. But nonetheless I loved it and here are five reasons why you’ll love the play too…

It’s a hilarious and beautiful story about life and love

Here’s the plot in a nutshell: Rosalind, the daughter of a banished Duke, falls in love with Orlando, a young man who has been wronged by his elder brother. They meet when Orlando successfully wins a wrestling match. Rosalind is banished from the Court for treason by her usurping Uncle, the Duke Frederick. She disguises herself as a boy, gives herself the name Ganymede, and flees with her cousin and the court jester into the Forest of Arden in search of her father. Who should ‘Ganymede’ meet in the forest? Orlando, who has fallen desperately in love with her! In her disguise, Rosalind instructs Orlando and those around her in the nature of love.

The characters romp through the forest like a group of circus performers, discovering more about themselves and the human condition whilst delivering outrageously good gags and bad puns. The play is unashamedly fun and is a pure joy to watch.

You’ll enjoy and understand it even if you’ve never seen a Shakespeare play

My boyfriend isn’t someone who’d rush out to see something entirely in Elizabethan English. He had never seen a Shakespeare play before As You Like It and had only fleetingly studied the playwright in highschool. He roared the entire way through he performance and came out raving at its conclusion.

Director Peter Evans loves introducing new audiences to Shakespeare’s best comedy, and feels As You Like It is a very accessible play.

As You Like It is packed with unique characters. The play’s language is full of warmth and love, with beautiful poetry that’s easy to understand, ” he shares.

“The play is about the human condition, trying and failing,” says Zahra Newman, who plays the electrifying Rosalind. “If you strip away the language, it’s about people. It’s like a 40’s comic love romp, a classic tale of love and humanity.”

The actors’ performances are superb

Newman is spell-binding in her performance of Rosalind, one of Shakespeare’s most powerful and fully-realised female characters. She’s sassy, scathing in her commentary on marriage, and imparts wise advice and insights about the human condition throughout the play with a healthy dose of comedy and sharp wit. I particularly enjoyed the scenes shared by Rosalind and her cousin Celia, played by the exceptional Kelly Paterniti. Their onstage relationship is beautiful and genuine, and Paterniti is uproariously funny. The cousins’ close friendship is warm and highly relatable, with Celia joking, counseling and chiding Rosalind in her love for Orlando.

Charlie Garber, who plays Orlando, says he was drawn to the role through a desire to test himself as an actor. “I really like the character, he has values without being annoying or dull,” Charlie explains. “In some ways he’s a classic romantic hero, but because it’s Shakespeare, you get these deeper insights into how his character exists within the broader context of his world”.

The play’s music and set is an explosion of colour and fun

As You Like It is one of Shakespeare’s plays with the most songs in it, and we’ve brought together a lot of different genres and songs,” Peter explains. He tells me that the songs performed by the talented Abi Tucker, who plays the roles of Audrey and Amiens, are some of his favourite moments of the play. Her songs bring an extra level of fun and charm to the story and the interactions between the characters.

The set is beautifully romantic with hundreds of flowers adorning the backdrop. This is a change for Peter, who doesn’t tend to work with much colour. “I’m particularly proud of the court’s transition from the court to the forest, which is a psychological and spiritual space for discovery,” he tells me.

‘All the world’s a stage’

Ever wondered where this little gem of a quote comes from? The line is one of Shakespeare’s most famous, and comes from the powerful ‘seven ages of man’ speech delivered by the cynical Jacques, played by the mesmerising John Bell, Co-Artistic Director of Bell Shakespeare. This monologue is one of the most iconic Shakespeare’s monologues, which essentially is about how we all perform different roles throughout our lives.

“The quote ‘All the world’s a stage’ is the central metaphor for this production, and the play is a celebration of the theatre,” says Peter.

It’s also fitting is that As You Like It is the opening play for the company’s season, as 2015 celebrates 25 years of Bell Shakespeare sharing, touring, teaching and performing Shakespeare across Australia.

‘The play was an obvious choice to us to open the year’ John and Peter write in the programme.

A celebration of life-well encapsulated in Jacques’ ‘seven ages of man’ speech- its popularity has remained as constant as Orlando’s love for Rosalind because of how readily the text tackles, somewhat eccentrically, the twists and turns that life delivers.”

I’d watch this play again and again, it was so uplifting, laugh-out-loud funny and professionally produced. As Rosalind challenges Orlando, “Can one desire too much of a good thing?”

The essentials

What: As You Like It
Where: Canberra Theatre Centre
When: On now until Wednesday 18 April
How much: Tickets range from $35 to $79 depending on session day and time.
Web: www.canberratheatrecentre.com.au

Feature image supplied. 

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Josephine Walsh

Jose Walsh loves A-line skirts, the arts, and all types of pasta. She moved to Canberra in 2011 to study at ANU, and follow her dream of working in a museum. With an education background, she's currently harnessing her love of connecting people in a social media and PR role in a national institution. She loves great film, rambling about her succulents, and finding the perfect spot to share with her favourite people. More about the Author

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