Photo. Barb Gray. Katie McArthur and Katie Ryerson.
A fun-filled production of As You Like It where the masterful touch of Scott Florence’s direction heightens the humour, the corporeal performances, the playfulness as well as the seriousness and the lyrical effusions of this delightful pastoral romance . The actors articulate their lines so that they never lose control of the text, producing a comic performance that always serves the play. The rivalry of the brothers Orlando and Oliver, the banishment of the old Duke into the forest of Arden by his younger brother, Frederick, the banishment of Rosalind who also flees to the forest of Arden with her cousin Celia, leads to games of hidden and confused identities, the main impulse of their pastoral romp. Rosalind becomes young Ganymede, Celia becomes “his” sister Aliana, and the peasant girl Pheobe does not hide her lust for that young man, while Orlando flits about the forest posting his love-sick verse in the trees, pining for the beautiful Rosalind who is really right under his nose the whole time.
This time, the Fools have foregrounded the text just as much as the comic acting and that is what made the performance so special. Katie Ryerson as Rosalind/Ganymede excels in her double presence as the young woman madly in love with Orlando while playing the masculine young man who has difficulty hiding “his” feminine side as he /she carries out her ambiguous games with the love-sick Orlando (Matthew Lundvall) who is himself seduced by this young man. Ryerson was magnificent as she clearly reaches the height of her young comic career. Her “epilogue” not only vindicates women but does it with a great sense of distance, irony and comic timing that she carried off beautifully. Lundvall as the tortured Orlando, captures the fun, the pain, the longing , the comic combat that sends him running through the forest like a mad lover. This actors’ work was much better this year. The scenes between Ryerson and Kate McArthur as the two cousins were delightful as they giggle, plot, tease and prepare their games in the forest like two nearly hysterical teenagers. Also excellent was Catriona Leger who began as a Mary Walsh style hypermasculine Oliver – those colourful codpieces of Imesons’s costumes added much to the fun. Leger even went into the audience at one point and caused an uproar. At the same time, she also becomes the earthy, busty peasant woman Pheobe fainting with lust in her wild blond wig as she throws herself at the handsome young Ganymede. From then on Leger was kept busy rushing on and off the acting space in a series of split second changes from Oliver to Phoebe to clown Touchstone, himself smitten by Audrey , (Katie McArthur’s pastoral version of Sarah Palen). The epitome of pastoral romping in a free and unfettered nature is assumed to the hilt in this production where Imeson’s wild wigs make the day. Sylvius, a riotously earthy Geoff Mcbride in his scruffy red wig is driven by his forest instincts as a man who cannot get his girl. Such a string of frustrated lovers gives rise to that famous foursome where Orlando, Phoebe. Ganymede and Sylvius perform the bouncy quartet that takes on the rhythms of a light opera, as they all cry out for the ones they love. Geoff McBride is also the strange Jacques who is caustic and critical as he becomes both the effeminate French Lebeau and the alter ego of the clown Touchstone while his cheeky and vivacious rendering of All the World’s a Stage is one of the high moments of the play. McBride prances around the stage illustrating how his performance echos Shakespeare’s words which trace the story of man’s life…as though it were a play in six acts, that ends sadly in oblivion.The multiple levels of performance were clearly identified and all the choices were very wise, even though some of the text has been cut (“come lie with me and be my love”- ) but Jacque’s famous monologue that epitomizes theatre as life, or life as theatre, remained intact.
A perfectly satisfying and very entertaining evening in the Park. This is not for younger children but certainly 10 years and up would enjoy this and adults will be entertained by this playful version of Shakeskpeare that respects the text. As You Like It plays in parks across the city until August 16th For times and places see the Fools website: www.fools.ca
As You Like it by William Shakespeare
Directed by Scott Florence
Costumes, set, props and puppets Vanessa Imeson
Catriona Leger Phebe, Touchstone, Oliver
Matthew J. Lundvall Orlando. Corin, Amiens
Kate McArthur Celia, Audrey, Duke sr.
Geoff McBride Jaques, Silvius, Duke Frederick, Charles
Katie Ryerson Rosalind, Adam