Invoking memories of long summer days spent idling with adolescent love, Bell Shakespeare opens its 2015 season, and its 25th anniversary year, with one of Shakespeare’s most charming and beloved comedies, As You Like It.
This production sees Peter Evans and John Bell working together for the last time as Artistic Directors of Bell Shakespeare, with Peter directing and John performing the melancholy role of Jaques, reciting one of Shakespeare’s most famous passages; All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players…’
“It will be a privilege to see John up there performing those lines. It will be a very special, very emotional moment,” says Director Peter Evans.
As You Like It is a story about one of Shakespeare’s greatest heroines and a love so grand, the play’s heroine is willing to break all the rules of love to win the boy.
Sir Rowland de Bois has recently died and, according to custom, has left the vast majority of his estate to his eldest son, Oliver. Although Sir Rowland instructed Oliver to take care of his brother Orlando, Oliver instead denies Orlando the education, training and property befitting a gentleman.
Rosalind is depressed because Duke Senior, her father, has been overthrown and banished by his brother, Duke Frederick. She falls in love with Orlando after he successfully beats Charles, the wrestler, at a wrestling match. Rosalind is banished from the Court by Duke Frederick for treason. She dresses as a boy, calls herself Ganymede and flees to seek her father in the Forest of Arden.
She is accompanied by Celia, her cousin and best friend, who poses as Ganymede’s sister, Aliena. They are joined by Touchstone, the Court Jester. In the Forest they encounter the shepherd Silvius who is in love with the disdainful Phebe. Things get complicated when Phebe falls in love with ‘Ganymede’.
Meanwhile, Orlando, fleeing his jealous brother, arrives in the Forest where he meets ‘Ganymede’. In this disguise Rosalind proceeds to instruct Orlando, Silvius and Phebe as to the nature of love. Duke Frederick commands Oliver to find the runaways, but arriving in Arden, Oliver is converted by a kindly act from Orlando, and falls in love with Celia. Duke Frederick repents of his tyranny, Rosalind throws off her disguise and a mass wedding ensues.
“Rosalind is an incredible female character,” says Evans. “She teaches Orlando to truly love. She has daring, charm and incredible conviction. It’s a wonderful role.”
Fresh from a stellar year in 2014 (Tartuffe, The Dream), Evans continues his penchant for raw, deconstructed yet beautiful staging and design. With Set Designer Michael Hankin and Costume Designer Kate Aubrey they’ll be creating a forest wonderland that will include over 5,500 flowers with tailored, eclectic costuming inspired by the 30’s, 50’s and 60’s. The mood of this production will be further enriched by Lighting Designer, Paul Jackson, and Composer, Kelly Ryall.
“There a number of songs in this play, the most of any Shakespeare, and they’ll be performed live by the cast. It is going to sound incredible,” said Evans.
Director: Peter Evans Featuring: George Banders, John Bell, Gareth Davies, Alan Dukes, Emily Eskell, Charlie Garber, Zahra Newman, Kelly Paterniti, Dorje Swallow, Tony Taylor, Abi Tucker
Set Designer: Michael Hankin Costume Designer: Kate Aubrey Lighting Designer: Paul Jackson Lighting Realisor (Melbourne): Tom Warneke Musical Director & Composer: Kelly Ryall Associate Sound Designer: Nate Edmondson Movement Director: Scott Witt
As You Like It opens at the Sydney Opera House (21 February – 28 March), then tours to Canberra Theatre Centre (7 – 18 April) and Arts Centre Melbourne (23 April – 10 May). For more information, visit: www.bellshakespeare.com.au for details.
Image: Zahra Newman