Shakespeare in the Park is a great way to spend a summer evening in Melbourne – even if it has been a little colder than usual lately. The Australian Shakespeare Company’s production of As You Like It is both fun and relaxing – although I strongly recommend bringing a blanket.
While the synopsis can be a little confusing – there are a lot of brothers betraying brothers, people falling in love with other people, and several weddings at the end – the play is a riot of colour and music.
The actors are all enthusiastic and colourful, and the prose flows like water, delivered in a way that is simultaneously natural and hilarious. They also manage to make the dialogue fun and modern – the jester Touchstone manages to sneak in some not so subtle digs at Tony Abbott, and the melancholic lord Jaques also manages to put in some more modern references.
The props and the costumes are a joy to watch as well. The amount of faux cross dressing (and actual cross-dressing, in the case of Audrey) is hilarious, and watching Louisa Fitzardinge acting out a girl pretending to be a boy was always going to end well – and it does. Director Glenn Elston mixes the decidedly modern with the Shakespearean to great effect, and watching a “wrestler” getting ripped apart off-stage with false limbs flying around was an inspired choice.
The singing is an enjoyable element that you don’t normally get in a Shakespearean performance. In fact, As You Like It boasts the most songs out of any of Shakespeare’s repertoire. The folk-inspired music manages to break up the play enough to keep the audience engaged, whilst not detracting from the prose. And audience participation manages to sneak its way in (mostly through clapping and sing-alongs).
In conclusion, As You Like It, is definitely a fun way to spend an evening. Combining Shakespeare’s clever prose with modern acting and references as well as songs, is something that makes a great show. It is certainly a highlight of the summer.