As You Like It 1991 - 1992

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It is the clearest, most crisp and sexiest As You Like It I have ever seenVillage Voice

Brilliant … intelligent … shot through with warm, generous humour… it is a celebration in itself.Sunday Times

World premiere 11 July 1991 Redgrave Theatre, Farnham
London run from 2 December 1991 for 32 performances, Lyric Hammersmith
London run (revival) from 23 January 1995 for 23 performances, Albery Theatre (Now The Noël Coward Theatre)

Venue City Country Date No. of Performances
Redgrave Theatre Farnham UK 11/07/91 10
Staller Center for the Arts New York USA 24/07/91 5
Teatro Villa Lobos Rio de Janeiro Brazil 01/08/91 2
Teatro De Parque Recife Brazil 05/08/91 2
Teatro Nacional, Claudio Santoro Brasilia Brazil 10/08/91 2
TUCA Sao Paulo Brazil 15/08/91 3
Opera House Buxton UK 03/09/91 6
Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds UK 10/09/91 6
Theatre Royal Winchester UK 17/09/91 6
Wilde Theatre Bracknell UK 23/09/91 6
Theatre Municipal Luxembourg Luxembourg 02/10/91 3
Riverbank Theatre Dublin Ireland 08/10/91 6
Connaught Theatre Worthing UK 15/10/91 6
Warwick Arts Centre Coventry UK 22/10/91 6
Cambridge Arts Theatre Cambridge UK 29/10/91 6
Arts Theatre Belfast UK 04/11/91 6
Theatre Royal York UK 19/11/91 6
Lyric Hammersmith London UK 02/12/91 32
Globe Theatre Tokyo Japan 09/01/92 12
Rialto Entertainment Centre Derry Ireland 28/01/92 2
Swan Theatre Stratford Upon Avon UK 04/02/92 6
Rotterdam Schouwburg Rotterdam Holland 13/02/92 2
Concordia Stadsschouwburg Breda Holland 17/02/92 2
St James Theatre Wellington New Zealand 28/02/92 6
Playhouse Adelaide Australia 09/03/92 7
Teatro Espanol Madrid Spain 25/03/92 5
Cast
Mike AffordCorin / Le Beau
Mark BannisterOliver
Mark BentonSilvius
Richard CantAudrey
Joe DixonJacques / Charles
Sam GrahamPhebe / Adam
Richard HendersJacques de Boys / 1st Lord
David HobbsThe Duke
Tom HollanderCelia
Anthony HuntDennis / Sir Oliver Martext / 2nd Lord
Adrian LesterRosalind
Peter NeedhamTouchstone
Conrad NelsonAmines / Hymen
Patrick ToomeyOrlando

Creatives
DirectorDeclan Donnellan
DesignerNick Ormerod
Composer and MDPaddy Cunneen
Lighting DesignerJudith Greenwood
Movement DirectorSue Lefton
Fight DirectorJohn Waller
Production and Company Stage ManagerLouise Yeomans
Deputy Stage ManagerMaria Gibbons
Wardrobe ManagerBlossom Beale
Student Assistant Stage ManagerAndrea Hopkinson
(click to expand)

Sunday Times


Cheek by Jowl’s new production of As You Like It (Lyric Hammersmith) is so brilliant, so intelligent, so shot through with warm, generous humour, that it will be a pity if it is remembered simply as an all male performance.

There is a grave programme note about the role of androgyny in primitive rituals and classical Greek Dionysus worship – all quite true – but it isn’t really the point. Shakespeare was neither a shaman nor a Dionysiac; he was a hugely successful commercial playwright of genius who worked at a time when women could not be actors for moral reasons and so he preceded to exploit the convention of boy actors with the most stunning originality.

Declan Donnellan’s production reveals that As You Like It is not about sexuality – hetero, homo, bi or trans – but about love, which both transcends sexuality and includes it.

Most Rosalinds, when they are dressed as Ganymede, tend to become irresistibly feminine. Adrian Lester remains a young man playing a girl, playing a young man. What dominates his performance is not sensuality but deep feeling. Sensuality is not denied only held in check .Tom Hollander’s Celia is a shrewd, humorous girl, capable of being poisonously demure: a performance of impudent and endearing maturity which never mocks the character.

Neither actor is ever for a moment effeminate, but simply and naturally feminine: thoughtful, attractive, single minded, wistful and warm. It is not a question of merely transcending sexuality or of being in drag, but of actors reaching out towards a different experience and communicating a different mode of being. That, and not dressing up, is what acting is all about.

There is a glowing Mozartian generosity about the whole production. Like Shakespeare himself, Donnellan and his actors look at the world and its fallible inhabitants in serious but forgiving amusement. The company acting is impeccable. There is a fine, saturnine Jacques from Jo Dixon, a self-absorbed melancholy and slightly precious dandy; and I liked Peter Needham’s Touchstone, a tetchy, agile sharper trying to fend off middle age. This is Cheek by Jowl’s tenth anniversary production: it is a celebration in itself.

John Peter, 08.12.91

The Independent


The odds against a strapping 6ft black male actor being able to create not just a convincing but a captivating Rosalind are, you might have thought, fairly formidable. Adrian Lester makes short work of this assumption however, in Cheek by Jowl’s delightful all male production of As You Like It at the Lyric Hammersmith.

The company’s director, Declan Donnellan, has always been mischievously alert to the sexual politics that are in play in the disguise conventions of Shakespearian comedy. At the end of his version of Twelfth Night for example, Viola wisely forced Orsino to feel her breasts, as it to remind him that this person he has fallen in love with (but oddly enough never seen except in male costume) is no boy.

Here, the homosexual element in the hero’s attraction was not suddenly swept aside in the statutory fifth act pairing off of straights. Donnellan is no stranger to bold, gender swap casting either. His Tempest have us not the King but the Queen of Naples, a Thatcher clone who, flanked by her cabinet, stalks round the island as though in search of somebody new to handbag.

If, in the past, some of these touches have seemed outré and heavy handed, this As You Like It is remarkable to the comic tact and restraint with which it readopts the Elizabethan practice of males playing females. Given that in her mock wooing scenes with Orlando, Rosalind is a woman pretending to be Ganymede pretending to be Rosalind, to cast a male actor in the role presents the audience with the spectacle of a man playing a woman, playing a man, playing a woman. You might think that this would cause chromic mental squinting. In fact, the result is funny, touching and at times, frisson inducing. Lester, who bears a spooky resemblance to Josette Simon, somehow manages to invoke femininity without resorting to any of the cheap mannerisms of female impersonation, and he is nicely contrasted with Tom Hollander’s dumpy, cherubic Celia, a picture of pouting, curl chewing disapproval into which faint elements of a drag act have beguilingly crept.

The scenes between Ganymede and Patrick Toomey’s excellent Orlando have a beautifully comic, erotic tension and a sexual ambiguity that’s heightened because both players are men. Toomey tries to hide his obscure embarrassment behind playful, manly cuffs and rabbit punches that Lester feels obliged, beautifully if unconvincingly, to return.

Donnellan has inserted a realistic momentary glitch in the happy ending that awaits this couple. When Orlando lifts Rosalind’s bridal veil in the final scene he looks appalled and stalks away as if massively offended at the benign trick she has played on him, only relenting when she subsides in tears on her father’s shoulder. This brief outbreak of injured masculine pride (crossed perhaps with a little pang for the displaced Gannymede) is swiftly followed however by moving proof of how much he has learned under Rosalind’s tuition, to respect women. When his new father in law insists on ceding a dukedom to him, Orlando gracefully hangs the medal round the heroine’s neck.

The play is communicated with admirable directness and a cunning simplicity of means. The court scenes are delivered on a bare stage: later toilet roll strips of green descend to evoke Arden which is eventually dappled with verdant light. A strong cast managed to break out of all the foolishness of the forest’s range of bumpkins, without patronising them. I enjoyed Mike Afford’s Corin whose thoughts come so slowly it’s like listening to a partially blind person reading out an optician’s chart, and Richard Cant’s hilarious Audrey, all vacantly benign leers.

In this As You Like It Jo Dixon’s lachrymose Jacques is prevailed upon to return to the festive gathering at the end. It is fitting that this production should end in a joyous group tango with no one excluded, for it celebrates the tenth birthday of this provocative (sometimes provoking) but always intriguing company.

Paul Taylor, 06.12.91

Time Out


All the world may be a stage but in Declan Donnellan’s production it is only the men that are players. Whether or not there is anything to be gained from such an As You Like It now that women can frolic on stage with the best of men, hangs in the balance until the wooing scenes between Ganymede and Orlando. Instead of the usual, complicated enough, woman playing a man playing a woman, in Adrian Lester’s delicate hands it is as it was in Shakespeare’s time, a man playing a woman playing a man, playing a woman. For the first time it becomes clear how strange and brave it is that Orlando should agree to practise his wooing on a man, hiding his embarrassment by slapping Ganymede regularly on the back. There is a definite frisson as one’s sense of gender becomes increasingly confused. As does Orlando’s in the final scene when he lifts Rosalind’s bridal veil and refuses to accept that it is Rosaline until she bursts into feminine tears of her father’s shoulder.

This is magical playing after an opening scene that re-arouses fears that the evening is going to turn out to be a camp nightmare as Tom Hollander’s Miss Prism-is Celia naughtily lifts Rosalind’s skirt and gives her a swift nip. Throughout Hollander seems as trapped as any transvestite in a male concept of femininity; but swapping sex doesn’t always mean concentrating on the differences rather than exploring the similarities for along with Lester’s delightful Rosalind, Richard Cant makes a wonderfully hoydenish Audrey.

The production celebrates ten years of zestful touring by Cheek by Jowl and as so often in the past, Nick Ormerod has come up with the ideal touring set, a start white background that provides a perfect foil to the action. For me, this is by far the most fascinating of all Cheek by Jowl’s Shakespearian productions. How many other companies could claim to be in such fine fettle after ten long years on the road?

Jane Edwardes, 11.12.91

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