Endearing, romantic and droll
By Irene Bell
Seemingly every character who is in any way interesting is banished from the duchy and flees to the Forest of Arden in the first act of Shakespeare’s revered comedy, As You Like It. This is just as well for the audience, as we get to enjoy all the silliness that ensues: there are disguises, musical numbers, cases of mistaken identity and an odd off-stage punch-on with a lion.
In the Park Productions’ As You Like It is a whimsical play with the action on stage never producing a dull moment, and the fitting outdoor location creates a lovely family-friendly atmosphere. Creator, Meg Deyell has crafted a production that gets to the very heart of the play.
The main premise is cute and romantic: The courtship of two lovers, Rosalind and Orlando, is cut very short as Rosalind is banished from the kingdom and Orlando flees for his own safety. Both find themselves in the forest though Rosalind is now in the guise of a man, Ganymede. The two meet and proceed to strike a deal in which Orlando and the disguised Rosalind play out a pretend romance, allowing Orlando to practice his moves.
Dana McMillan is powerful as Rosalind, she fully embodies both the wit and tenderness of her character. McMillan’s diction is a joy to hear and her physical comedy is incredibly engaging. Shae Kelly’s Orlando is wonderfully post-emo in both manner and dress, and while Kelly took a couple of scenes to find a rhythm, once there he performed great comedy.
Besides these performances, there is a wonderful array of characters who are all as funny and unwittingly wise as each other. For a production with such a limited cast and space, the actors build a sense of a friendly, odd-ball community incredibly well. On stage, there is a strong sense of chemistry particularly from David Harris – who plays both Touchstone and Adam – and anyone with whom he shares a scene.
I found the stripped down, steampunk-esque aesthetic clashed with the more by-the-book costumes of secondary characters like Corin the shepherd and Phoebe. Though it was the small details that made this production feel fully-realised – a personal favourite was Corin’s name written on his lunch bag, very endearing!
As You Like It is a fun and goofy way to spend an evening with friends and family. What could be better than enjoying a classic comedy while having a picnic?
As You Like It plays in Alistair Knox Park Eltham 8 – 10 February and Watkins St Reserve Diamond Creek 14 – 16 February. Tickets can be purchases online or by calling the box office on 1300 302 448.