As You Like It: Preview
‘Mysterious and aphrodisiacal; prepare to be charmed’
Cameron Yule’s choice of his debut Shakespeare production was guided by two things: the first being that it had to be short and fulfilling, and the second, that he wished the play to be led by a strong female character.
This left him with Antony and Cleopatra or As You Like It, the latter having perhaps the most invigorating female lead – Rosalind – in all of Shakespeare's work. It seems fitting in the light of the Me Too campaign and recent issues of gender inequality in Hollywood that the cast of Yule’s production sees strong, authoritative male characters such as Oliver and Duke Frederick played by equally strong and authoritative women in Anna van der Horst and Aliya Gilmore.
Such is the premise of the play: to cast the light on the contemporary social dispersion that the Forest of Arden seems to be completely rid of.
Alington House is set to become Arden, mimicking the play’s initial performance at Wilton House in 1603, where it was performed in a room not dissimilar to Durham’s very own location. The audience is fully immersed in the action from three sides especially during the memorable wrestling scene, and those in the mysterious Forest of Arden.
Arden has characteristically been the place of freedom from society’s pitfalls, a place of bucolic existence and love, and in Yule’s production certainly captures the unnerving atmosphere of the forest. Not only does Arden become an escape from courtly trouble, but it is a place where class and gender conventions are blurred.
Fionna Monk is especially riveting as Rosalind and she is well accompanied by John Broadhead and Sophie Cullis as Orlando and Celia respectively. One of the strongest friendships in Shakespeare is superbly played out by Monk and Cullis – and is reason enough to come see the play. Alex Berridge-Dunn offers a hilarious turn as Touchstone, breathing life into a character often forgotten in the play while the 'play's centrepiece' – as Yule calls it – 'All the world’s a stage’, is bravely undertaken by Jack Palmer, who plays the melancholy Jaques.
The play’s overall energy promises to be brisk yet wholesome, and this particular production of As You Like It brings, along with an impressive cast, a fresh look at Arden and all its wonderful charm.
1TC presents As You Like It at Alington House, 8th-10th March, 7:30. Tickets available at durhamstudenttheatre.org