Photo – Jeff Busby

It’s been a long time coming, but the Melbourne Theatre Company’s production of William Shakespeare’s As You Like It finally premiered at the Sumner Theatre. Originally scheduled for August 2021, the classic tale of love, longing and mistaken identity was worth the wait.

Featuring a luscious set that would make Liberace proud, and an all-star cast, As You Like It was witty, silly, joyous, and exactly what Melbourne needs after the world’s longest lockdown.

Directed by Simon Phillips, the team that brought us Twelfth Night has joined forces with musicians Kate Miller-Heidke and Keir Nuttall once more to deliver a spectacular piece of theatre and original music composition.

The plot line twists and turns, and at times makes little to no sense, as in many of Shakespeare’s plays. However, As You Like It is altogether wonderfully silly and with a few nods to the audience and subtle breaking of the fourth wall, so the audience is clearly let in on the joke.

James Mackay is a wonderful Orlando, full of wonder, longing and earnestness, you never question his quest for Rosalind, and he plays the role of prince charming with ease. After escaping his brother’s (Chris Ryan) wrath and heading into exile with nothing more than his servant friend Adam (Richard Piper). After encountering Rosalind (Christie Whelan Brown) the two are instantly besotted and become bumbling teenagers unable to get a word out.

After Rosalind is also banished by her uncle, she is forced into exile and heads for the forest of Arden. With no other choice she disguises herself as a man and joined by her loyal cousin Celia (Georgia Flood) who refuses to abandon her, along with their fool (Daniel Frederiksen), they begin their journey into the forest.

What is then revealed is an elaborate garden, green and luscious and a band of players dressed in white in a glorious display of beauty. Contrasting the natural beauty of the forest is an over-the-top sparkling white piano embellished with gold and covered in enough candelabras to make Lumiere jealous, the production picks up pace as the lovers are mismatched in moments of hilarity and farce.

The musical elements of this production take it to the next level, with Kate Miller-Heidke and Keir Nuttall at the helm as composers and delivered by the incredible band of players (Laurence Boxhaull, Xani Kolac, Jack Green, Richard Piper, Richard Sergeant and Shivantha Wijesinha) who double as ensemble members bringing a festive atmosphere to the stage.

Two standout moments occur when Georgia Flood and music theatre royalty Christie Whelan Browne each grace the audience with a song that wouldn’t be out of place in a contemporary musical. The stunning vocals of Flood and Whelan Browne bring another level of other-worldliness and transport the audience into Shakespeare’s farcical land of forest dwellers, duelling brothers, hopeless romantics and complete fools.

With some of the most recognised lines in theatre delivered by melancholy wanderer Jaques (Tim Walter) who professesAll the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players”.

With all the fun, frivolity and farce of Shakespeare’s finest language, and a cast that is all at once funny, considered, and vulnerable, As You Like It is exactly as I like it, a joyful celebration with a happy ending, and just what Melbourne needs after too long in exile. Together with the MTC, we have finally found our Arden.

Event details

Melbourne Theatre Company presents
As You Like It
by William Shakespeare

Director Simon Phillips

Venue: Southbank Theatre, The Sumner
Dates: 13 Nov – 18 Dec 2021
Bookings: | 03 8688 0800



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