As You Like It 1994 - 1995

Tour Information

‘There’s something about the heat of young love that somehow this play captures like no other play does. At the time the cast somehow came together…and somehow the pain and joy of identity, of trying to discover who you through love, somehow came into focus and was released by this production.’

-Scott Handy, Orlando, As You Like It 20th Anniversary Screening 2014


Who ever loved that loved not at first sight?


‘This became the tour of a lifetime, as the show was by now an established international hit. We were feted in New York, Moscow, the Bouffes du Nord in Paris, invited back to New York and finally finished in the West End at the Coward theatre. Many of the cast were different, but Adrian, Richard Cant, David Hobbs and Peter Needham remained – and developed. By the final performances in London (where we would still rehearse it regularly), we had a show we were all proud of.’

 Declan Donnellan, Artistic Director, quoted in the Guardian Online 2014.


The first performance of As You Like It was on 11 July 1991 at the Redgrave Theatre, Farnham UK.


Venue City Country Date No. of Performances
Theatre Royal Norwich UK 13/09/94 4
Dancehouse Manchester UK 27/09/94 6
Majestic Theatre New York USA 04/10/94 7
McCarter Princeton USA 11/10/94 1
Maly Theatre Moscow Russia 19/10/94 4
Maly Theatre St Petersburg Russia 26/10/94 2
Mercat de les Flors Barcelona Spain 02/11/94 2
Schauspielhaus Dusseldorf Germany 05/11/94 3
Great Theatre Pilsen Czech Republic 10/11/94 1
National Theatre Cariova Romania 15/11/94 2
Bulandra Theatre Bucharest Romania 19/11/94 2
National Theatre Sofia Bulgaria 24/11/94 3
Majestic Theatre New York USA 06/12/94 7
Kameri Theatre Tel Aviv Israel 15/12/94 4
Sherover Theatre Jerusalem Israel 20/12/94 2
Bouffes du Nord Paris France 06/01/95 16
Albery Theatre London UK 23/01/95 23
Scott HandyOrlando
Stephen WattsDennis / Sir Oliver Martext
Jonathan ChestermanOliver
David HobbsDuke Frederick / Banished Duke
Simon CoatesCelia
Adrian LesterRosalind
Peter NeedhamTouchstone
Sean FrancisLe Beau
Paul KissaunCharles / Corin
Michael GardinerJacques
Rhashan StoneAmiens / William
Gavin AbbotSilvius
Wayne CaterPhebe
Sean FrancisJacques de Boys
Richard CantAdam / Audrey

DirectorDeclan Donnellan
DesignerNick Ormerod
Composer and MDPaddy Cunneen
Sue LeftonMovement Director
Judith GreenwoodLighting Designer
Fiona LairdAssistant Director
John WallerFight Director
Marcus BrayCompany Stage Manager
Jon HowesProduction Manager
Rachel DicksonWardrobe Manager
Paula SpinksDeputy Stage Manager
(click to expand)

Evening Standard

Declan Donnellan’s magical mystery tour of Shakespeare’s comedy of cross-dressing and gender confusion is a revelation. His all production with Adrian Lester an unforgettable Rosalind, does not just hark back to Shakespeare’s time – when only men took to the stage. Nor is it an attempt to force Shakespeare into a gay straitjacket. Here, beguilingly is a sensational new world where men and women become androgynous creatures who have feet in both camps, and look like examples of what one can only call a third sex.

Instead of an actress playing Rosalind and therefore obliged to spend the evening mainly disguised as a youth, the tall, broad, Adrian Lester takes the role. The gender change is riveting. He appears in the Duke’s court in a blue dress, looking every inch a lady, lipsticked, close cropped hair concealed by a bandana. When Rosalind chooses exile in Arden, accompanied by her cousin Celia, whom Simon Coates hilariously plays and butch and acidulous county girl in regal headscarf, the mood becomes dizzyingly strange.

Here is a man playing a woman, disguising herself as the young Ganymede. And Lester’s Rosalind in Edwardian knicker bockers, jacket and long white shirt, exudes vulnerability and nerves as he comically reveals the dilemma of a young woman trying to act male and slightly missing it.

Arden becomes a summery pleasure dome alluringly lit by Judith Greenwood, where Michael Gardiner’s cosmetically improved Jacques cruises for young men.

Wayne Cater’s glorious Phebe in grunge wig and hideously floral clothes, casts sly, lustful glances at Lester, jettisoning Gavin Abbott’s Silvius (valiantly hobbling with a stick after a recent ankle injury).

Richard Cant’s demure Audrey has the same single mindedness in pursuing her man, while Rosalind remains shy and tentative. The gentle satire of female manners works a treat.

The close encounters between Scott Handy’s gawky, ardent Orlando and Lester’s Rosalind are managed with similar effect, “Woo me” cries Rosalind despairingly, and the note of anxiety and unease characterises Lester’s infinitely poignant performance.

This As You Like It will surely define the play for the 1990s.

Nicholas de Jongh, 26.01.95



The Independent

DURING one of the wooing scenes in Declan Donnellan's all-male production of As You Like It, Rosalind - in the person of Adrian Lester - encourages her lover by putting on a frilly apron over her trousers. So you have the spectacle of a boy playing a girl playing a boy masquerading as a girl.

The senses reel, but not only at the gender confusion. The apron is a joke; but if one thing distinguishes Cheek by Jowl's show from routine revivals, it is the acknowledgement that the fun is in earnest. Rosalind says she is fathoms deep in love; and as Lester plays it - initially as tongue-tied before Orlando in the forest as he was before her after the wrestling - she dives into the game to save herself from drowning.

First seen in London in 1991, the show returns garlanded with the critical spoils of a triumphant world tour. Foreign success is an uncertain recommendation, sometimes meaning a performance loaded with flashy business for audiences who don't understand the language. That is not the case here. This a blank canvas that gradually fills with action and colour, and you would get the story if you were stone deaf. But there is no separating text and physical invention in projecting the passionate playfulness that is at the heart of the comedy.

The show has developed a marvellous richness and precision of detail. It is a company event, excelling in group routines, elaborate scenic overlaps, and part-singing; at the same time, virtually every role is strikingly individualised. Take the treatment of anger, often a weak point. There is no shouting. In the first scene, Oliver (Jonathan Chesterman) lies reading a book, ignoring Orlando's complaints until he is pulled into the fight. Likewise David Hobbs, as Duke Frederick, instils terr or through his court with a quiet, rational address - erupting only once into violence when he smashes the capering Touchstone (Peter Needham) out of his way. Both characters see themselves in the right, and only become sinister as a result of what they do.

Long-range characterisation is one of the show's trademarks, sometimes leading to unexpected results. Oliver arrives in the forest as a supposedly reformed character, only to reveal himself still a bully whom Rosalind patently dislikes. Celia (Simon Coates), a bossy friend to Rosalind at court, then loses her authority and goes through Arden as a queenly wallflower, shooting glances of freezing disapproval and turning her lines into suppressive put-downs. Starting from the assumption that Shakespeare's clowns are a dead loss, Needham scores his comic points from the fact that Touchstone never gets a laugh. And, by an effect acceptable only in an all-male company, Jaques (Michael Gardiner) becomes a camp outsider, cruising the forest in vain pursuit of a partner. You may not agree; but whatever happens is motivated and logical.

The arrival in Arden also brings a mass release from yokel stereotypes. The usually gormless Audrey (Richard Cant) becomes a yodelling blonde who teams up with Touchstone as a female clown. Phoebe (Wayne Cater) changes from a haughty nymph to a waddling Welsh sexpot, eyes glowing avidly under her tea-cosy fringe. Similarly, potentially cloying episodes are structurally reinforced: the letter scene, for instance, now becomes a reading lesson in which the mountingly anguished Silvius can only make out one word: "love". With all that, the main reason for seeing the show remains Lester's performance. There has not been such a Rosalind since the young Vanessa Redgrave.

Irving Wardle,  29.01.95

The Guardian

Whatever they may think of our politics or our cuisine, the Parisians certainly love our theatre.

Invited by Peter Brook to the Bouffes du Nord, Cheek by Jowl's As You Like It has been playing for two weeks to standing ovations. And over at the Odeon Theatre De L'Europe, Edward Bond's Pieces de Guerre (The War PIays), scantly regarded at home, are enjoying a similar triumph. They are also part of an Anglo Irish Odeon season that includes Barker, Motton, Marlowe, Synge and the premiere of the new Simon Russell Beale Hamlet. We see the odd French Play in Britain: impossible, however to think of our straitened theatre paying similar tribute to our Gallic neighbours' Declan Donnellan's all-male As You Like It is a substantially recast version of his 1991 original what comes out even more strongly than before is the mystery of theatrical sexuality. Actresses playing Rosalind tend to highlight the character's boyishness: Adrian Lester, as a man seems unashamed of exploring her femininity. The defining moment comes when he first encounters Scott Handy's Orlando in Arden: Lester whips off his straw-hat, stands on tiptoe and spreads his fingers with pleasure begging to be recognised as a woman – en travesti. Crestfallen that he is not, he then launches into the wooing-game almost as a punitive exercise.

Donnellan was apparently influenced by Kabuki Theatre in his decision to use male actors; and, as in Japan, the gender switch in some strange way reveals the quintessence of womanhood. I've also never seen the Rosalind-Celia relationship better handled. Simon Coates plays the latter as an emotionally possessive figure in print frock and pearls who's got her claws into Rosalind and who spends much of her time in the forest quietly fuming at her cousin's betrayal.

But Donnellan also uses cross' dressing to heighten the comedy. Wayne Cater plays Phoebe as a squat, curl-tossing figure vaguely resembling Les Dawson as Mother Goose and Richard Cant turns Audrey into a leggy saffron-frocked nymph who can scarcely keep her hands off passing swains. My only cavil concerns the cavil when Michael Gardiner's Jaques, a carmine-lipped sexual predator, returns to pair off with a boy; it misses the point that in Shakespearean comedy one character is always excluded by choice or design from the prevailing sexual harmony.

But it remains one of the great Shakespeare productions of our time - not to be missed when it opens at the Albery on Wednesday.

Michael Billington, 21.01.95. Courtesy of Guardian News & Media Ltd.

New York Times

"Believe then, if you please, that I can do strange things," Rosalind announces mysteriously toward the end of Shakespeare's "As You Like It." The line has been spoken by actresses like Vanessa Redgrave and Katharine Hepburn, but it is difficult to imagine it ever having the profound pertinence it takes on in the mouth of one Adrian Lester, a tall, gangly man playing a woman in man's clothing.

When the words were delivered late Tuesday night at the Majestic Theater of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, an audible sigh of appreciation rippled through the house. Even more than the standing ovation that followed, that sigh was an ideal tribute to what Cheek by Jowl company of London had achieved: a sustained conjuring act that celebrates the basic power of theater to bewitch, to teach and above all to transform.

Working with an all-male cast on a blank white stage, the director Declan Donellan and the designer Nick Ormerod have created a sparkling "As You Like It" that finds the magic in the metamorphosis of performance. People who want to relive the excited childhood shivers of first seeing a play come to life had better get to Brooklyn by Sunday, when the production ends its run.

The fact that men are portraying women here is less a statement about sexual role playing than about playing roles in its broadest and most resonant sense. Just as the actors invent the characters, so do the play's extremely varied characters gradually find and form their truest selves in the school for love that is Shakespeare's Forest of Arden, and the two processes eventually meld in our minds.

The troupe first toured with the play in 1991, and there's the occasional feeling that some of the jokes have over-ripened. But there's still a spontaneous-seeming spirit of discovery, a sense of actors and characters learning to find their way through what Rosalind describes as "the briers of the working day world." And the play's finale, a blending of discordant elements into harmony (nicely underscored by Paddy Cunneen's eloquent vocal arrangements), seems truly earned.

The production begins starkly: the cast, all in black tuxedo pants and white shirts, stands formally as Michael Gardiner, the actor who plays Jaques, speaks the work's most quoted line: "All the world's a stage." Then in the manner of a disarmingly casual Prospero, Mr. Gardiner summons the play into being by simply smearing another man's face with what looks like mud.

That actor is the appealingly gawky Scott Hardy, the ill-treated Orlando who delivers the comedy's first speech. He does so with such visceral immediacy that it joltingly catapults us onto another level of perception. And so the conjuring act has begun.

What follows is a series of quick scenes in which the spoken word fluidly assumes flesh, and the play's exposition has never seemed less tedious. Using overlapping dialogue and action, Mr. Donnellan has found an ineffably theatrical equivalent for the cinematic dissolve.

The director seems to be betting brazenly that we'll give ourselves over to the most improbable illusions. He ups the ante by casting against type and doubling actors in bizarre combinations of parts. Orlando's wizened servant Adam, for example, is played by Richard Cant, a spry young man who later shows up as the rustic wench Audrey.

And then there is Rosalind, portrayed by Mr. Lester, who adopts a liquidly feminine carriage but is unmistakably a man. Does it work? Suffice it to say that when Rosalind, attired as a boy, meets her first stranger in the forest, you find yourself thinking that she can't possibly pull off the disguise.

Mr. Lester is by no means the winsome, serenely manipulative Rosalind of stock productions. This is a fiercely emotional woman, surprised by love, who spends most of the play wrestling with the frustrations of her assumed persona and her escalating passion. Mr. Lester has acquired some self-consciously adorable mannerisms. But his Rosalind burns with a thrilling compassion for the other love-addled inhabitants of Arden, providing the play with its essential heart and conscience.

Nearly all the other characters have been reconceived in fresh, sometimes iconoclastic ways that are always rooted in a specific emotional logic: the clown Touchstone (Peter Needham) is a weary, leadenly tap-dancing entertainer rejuvenated by rustic life; Jaques (Mr. Gardiner) is a Restoration comedy cynic with a sexual secret of his own (a strained device, but it makes a certain sense), and little Celia (Simon Coates), with a soupcon of Monty Python, becomes an officious gentry dowager in the making.

Mr. Donnellan ingeniously uses these characterizations to explore the different aspects of love, from the ludicrous, masochistic posturing of Silvius and Phebe (Gavin Abbott and Wayne Cater) to the earnest, emotionally weighted game playing of Rosalind and Orlando. And when the couples are sorted out in the wedding finale, for once it all makes sense.

Though there is no set to speak of, Mr. Ormerod's contribution is integral, taking us, via an inspired use of simple props and costumes, through an entire spectrum of colors that match the changing moods of the play. Three years after its inception, the production remains a delightful and self-delighted primer on the process of seduction that is theater. All the world may be a stage, but as Mr. Donnellan reminds us, the right company can turn a naked stage into a transfixingly complete world.

Ben Brantley, 06.10.94

Time Out

What is it about Cheek by Jowl’s all male As You Like It that makes it so engaging? Last week audiences left the Bouffes du Nord in Paris glowing with pleasure not least Peter Brook who was clearly delighted to be welcoming a company whose guiding principles are so closely allied to his own. The Albery doesn’t have the same hothouse relationship between actor and audience, but Declan Donnellan’s production will surely still be a rare occasion – especially in the West End.

At the centre is Adrian Lester’s dazzling and yet touching Rosalind, whose feelings are not less sincere because he is playing a woman playing a man, or sometimes even a woman playing a man playing a woman. Whatever the disadvantages of having boys as women in the Elizabethan theatre, Shakespeare clearly revelled in playing around with the convention. Audiences may find the gender bending a tingling sensation, but it frightens the life out of Orlando when he lifts Rosalind’s veil at their wedding and discovers that Ganymede and the woman he loves are one and the same person. We feel something similar when Orlando and Rosalind sink into a long, searching kiss, joltingly reminding us that we are watching two men.

Simon Coates looking like an older member of our Royal family in twin set and pearls, makes a demure Celia, alarmed by her previously timid cousin’s reckless behaviour, while Richard Cant as Audrey flops like a rag doll. By allowing one scene to invade the next, now a hallmark of Donnellan’s productions, not only does he focus attention on Shakespeare’s fascinating juxtapositions, but he also keeps the energy flowing right until the final curtain call. Designer Nick Ormerod’s success in creating a forest out of hanging green streamers is entirely in keeping with an evening in which the audience willingly participates in a delightful illusion. January blues are banished and Arcadia has never seemed so inviting.

Jane Edwardes, 18.01.95

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