BWW Review: AS YOU LIKE IT at Melbourne Shakespeare Company

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BWW Review: AS YOU LIKE IT at Melbourne Shakespeare CompanyMelbourne Shakespeare Company's fresh take on one of Shakespeare's most cherished comedies, As You Like It, provides a fun and enticing outdoor theatre experience in an intimate enclave at Central Park, Malvern. Just make sure to bring your picnic blanket!

Independently run Melbourne Shakespeare Company began its grassroots in 2016 under the artistic direction of Jennifer Sarah Dean. Having trained at The Globe Theatre in London, her comprehension of Shakespeare's prose and verse is clearly evident in this adapted production. While in my opinion it is tempting fate to reduce As You Like It from its full duration, to ninety minutes, in this case the gamble pays off. This edited version of the play works surprisingly well for both the novice and experienced audience member.

As You Like It begins at the court of Duke Frederick who has usurped the kingdom from his brother Duke Senior. The play's protagonist, Duke Senior's daughter, Rosalind, has been kept at court due to her close friendships with Duke Frederick's daughter, Celia. At the same time Orlando de Bois, the youngest son of deceased Sir Rowland de Bois is fleeing from his vengeful and cruel older brother Oliver, and while participating in a fight at court is introduced to Rosalind and instantly falls in love with her.

Rosalind then becomes banished from Duke Frederick's court and flees into the Forest for protection, accompanied by her loyal cousin Celia, who is horrified by her father's actions. To help protect their identifies Rosalind disguises herself as the boy Ganymede and Celia as the shepherdess Aliena. Orlando also flees into the Forest for fear of Oliver's scheme to kill him and leaves Rosalind love letters all over the forest. Rosalind, who is also in love with Orlando, but suspicious of his intentions, uses her male disguise of Ganymede to pretend to help Orlando to cure his love towards Rosalind. This allows Rosalind to decide if Orlando's passion is genuine.

To further complicate this classic love triangle, the shepherdess Phebe, has also fallen in love with Ganymede, despite having a suitor of her own - Silvius. While there are other important characters in As You Like It, this romance tornado that Shakespeare has created is the spine of this play and makes for a perfect storm of onstage antics.

In this production, the implementation of jovial a-cappella singing and energetic body percussion by musical director Benjamin Colley adds greatly in helping make this play more accessible and appealing for a contemporary audience. The use of modern music instead of Shakespeare's classic songs still allows As You Like It to be one of his most musical plays, but just with a modern twist. The cheerful yet cheeky choreography by John Reed helps to further infuse this production in contemporary culture.

The strong ensemble of actors in this play bring buckets of energy and pizazz. Anabelle Tudor is excellent as Rosalind. She is honest, clear and sincere in her interpretation which is by no means an easy feat given that Rosalind is commonly referred to as a female Hamlet, a part notorious for the volume of lines. Joanna Halliday is delightfully delicious as Celia and Jackson Head shines as the love sick Orlando. Henry O'Brien as Silvius and Sarah Krndija as Phebe both bring a strong passion to their characters' love-hate relationship.

This adaptation of As You Like It is fresh, cutting edge and unapologetic in it's attempt to be relevant for current society and Melbourne Shakespeare Company certainly live up to their vision of making "larger than life contemporary adaptations of Shakespeare's classic plays".

It is on at Central Park in Malvern and then The Fairfield Amphitheatre until 22 March 2020. More information can be found at https://www.melbourneshakespeare.com/




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From This Author Josh Stent