A Northern Broadsides & New Vic Theatre Co-production
As You Like It
York Theatre Royal, 23-26 March
Directed by Laurie Sansom | Designed by E.M. Parry
Northern Broadsides’ 30th anniversary production features a multi-cultural, gender diverse cast in Shakespeare’s As You Like It at York Theatre Royal from 23-26 March. This flamboyant and joyous ‘play for our times’ is the first full production for the company since the beginning of the pandemic.
Drawn from across the worlds of stage, TV and film, including award-winning productions, the 12 Northern actors include non-binary and disabled performers. The As You Like It cast are Bailey Brook (Silvius/Charles), Isobel Coward (Celia), Shaban Dar (Orlando), Gemma Dobson (Phoebe), Terri Jade Donovan (Audrey), Ali Gadema (Duke Ferdinand/Duke Senior), Claire Hackett (Adam/Corin), Reuben Johnson (Oliver), Adam Kashmiry (Jacques), Joe Morrow (Touchstone), Jo Patmore (Amiens) and EM Williams (Rosalind).
This bold, refreshing staging of As You Like It challenges us to imagine a new future. Capturing the sheer joy of live performance and the crazy power of love to change the world, this interpretation emboldens the timeless themes of love, gender, identity and power in Shakespeare’s original. A visual spectacle, the high value production will be radiantly brought to life with an original set and high fashion costumes by E.M. Parry.
Set in a stylish but stifling court, where the Duke is all powerful and brute strength is championed over basic human decency, the high-spirited Rosalind and devoted cousin Celia are no longer welcome. When they escape into the forest in disguise, they bump into the recent object of Rosalind’s affection, Orlando, leading to an elaborate game of fluid identity where all the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players.
As the seasons change in this magical place, normal roles dissolve and assumptions are turned on their head in this celebration of the transformative power of love and the natural world, featuring some of Shakespeare’s most vivid characters and memorable poetry.
Laurie Sansom, Artistic Director of Northern Broadsides said: “Your ‘if’ is the only peacemaker; much virtue in ‘if’. The Forest of Arden is a place where ‘if’ runs rampant. People adopt new names, new clothes and new lovers. They experience new feelings and dive into them willy-nilly, they play many parts and make many entrances and exits. It’s as if everyone has stepped through the wardrobe into another world but not without taking a lot of fabulous clothes with them.”
“This production takes us deep into the joyful possibilities of ‘if’ and asks if all the world’s a stage, can all the men and women be whoever they want to be? Escaping from the toxic entertainment empire presided over by the explosive and ruthless Duke Ferdinand, where now even the drag queens aren’t allowed to step out of line, Rosalind, Celia and Touchstone make a break for it.”
“They find themselves in a forest where gender, class and sexual desire seem fluid and as changeable as the seasons as old hierarchies crumble away. Of all of Shakespeare’s plays this feels the most restorative, opening up the possibility of making a new world based on open hearted acceptance of each other and living in harmony with the natural world. This feels like a play for our time, challenging us to imagine a new future that is more playful, accepting and connected”.
As You Like It set and costume designer E.M Parry said: “For me, As You Like It is one of Shakespeare’s queerest plays, but there’s a universality and relatability to the play’s exploration of the question of identity, how it’s constructed or imposed, and how it can shift and be remade. To an extent, all the people in As You Like It are trying on different identities, trying to figure out where they fit into the world, and the play explores different ways in which identity is experienced, and constructed – by people themselves, by the societies, situations, and relationships they find themselves in, by who they fall in and out of love and lust with…”
“In our version of Arden, when the characters escape to the forest, they go through the wardrobe, Narnia-like, into a giant dressing-up box of queer possibility, a place where time, gender, sexuality, love, class, and all the hierarchies and binaries of identity and power can be questioned and turned upside down.”
“Expect a world where a blizzard blows out of a hatbox, dresses change colour with the seasons, coatstands turn into trees and flowers grow up between the floorboards. Expect a world where a god turns up to a wedding, and who you are and who you fall in love with today can change as winter changes to spring, or a coat turns trees and flowers grow up between the floorboards. Expect a world where a god turns up to a wedding, and who you are and who you fall in love with today can change as winter changes to spring, or a coat turns inside out.”