Bell Shakespeare have truly brought a marvellous production to Canberra. By placing Shakespeare’s As You Like It in a surreal late-1950s/early 1960s world, Bell Shakespeare’s production excites and delights.
The play opens with a near bare stage, surrounded by old, weathered white sheets under a roof of flower-entangled ropes which later drape down to become the Forest of Arden. Set designer, Michael Hankin, has done a remarkable job in drawing the audience into the magical and melancholic world of the Forest of Arden, where the players, and the audience, spend most of the show.
Throughout the play, we follow the banished Rosalind (Zara Newman), who is dressed as a man, Ganymede, instruct Orlando (Charlie Garber) about the nature of love. Newman shines on stage in crafting a witty, funny and extremely sassy Rosalind. Accompanying Rosalind in the Forest of Arden is her cousin Celia (Kelly Paterniti), who is a highlight in the first act.
The play runs at a perfect pace, rarely becoming static and this is due to director Peter Evans’ amazing work with his actors. The Fool, Touchstone (Gareth Davies) has a hilarious physical presence on stage and the dynamism between Silvius (George Banders) and Phebe (Emily Eskell) in the second act is fantastic and greatly emphasises the high spirit of the show.
All of the actors give exceptional performances, particularly John Bell in his last production as both Artistic Director and an actor with the Company, as the melancholic and moralising Jacques – a role long a favourite for famous Shakespearean actors.
In addition to these performances, the creative team behind this production have done amazing job in reimagining the play as a late 1950s/early 1960s adaptation. Songs within the play are perfectly appropriated by Audrey (Abi Tucker) to give a smooth earthy tone. Furthermore, this surreal world is encapsulated by magnificent costuming by Kate Aubrey-Dunn, which includes a fabulous floral suit and 1960s style dresses.
This production amazes. It is not to be missed – the production really should be renamed As You *Will Definitely* Like It.
Bell Shakespeare’s As You Like It is on at the Canberra Theatre Centre for a strictly limited season from the 7-18 of April. Concession tickets are $53.50 and are available from https://www.canberratheatrecentre.com.au/site/
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