All you need is As You Like It

Lindsey Angell & Harveen Sandhu are Rosalind and Celia in Bard on the Beach’s signature comedy of 2018, and one of the most impressive to date.  (Photo: Tim Matheson, Bard on the Beach)

Daniel J. Rowe

How do you get from All You Need Is Love to a wrestling ring to a gender bending Shakespearean pastoral comedy to a pair of shoes to die for?

As You Like It. 

Bard on the Beach has upped its game again this year with what’s become a smash hit in the Beatles-infused musical hippy rendition of the play for its 2018 season.

The play is straight up entertainment from cover to cover with director Daryl Cloran missing no opportunity to hit a comedic, dramatic, romantic or musical note jumping from court to forest with style and side-splitting comedy epitomized by the John Fleuvog sixties-inspired shoes Rosalind (Lindsey Angell) wears at the end that every shoe-loving female (my mom included) will be drooling over.

NOTE: you may plan to not sing along to every song, but might very well catch yourself with eyes closed quietly singing “Something” by the end. Guilty.

The concept, sixties-based, hippy court and forest with Beatles music throughout, only had two possible outcomes: success or failure. Cloran’s production is cemented in the latter.

The set is stylish and not overly complicated, the costumes are superb, and the cast in this character-rich play is great. Each entry is exciting, and there are a few – scene stealers Ben Carlson (Jaques), Ben Elliott (Silvius) and Luisa Jojic (Phoebe) –  who add such an delightfully unexpected charm to the second half that the play continues chugging to the end. Jojic and Emma Slipp (Audrey) enter late in the play and both have stellar voices that’ll give you shivers.

My dad was obsessed with Silvius; so funny, such great moves.

Speaking of moves. The WWE-style wrestling match in the first act was a super clever move, using Beatles music, of course, was a great turn, but… Sigh… I have to say, swapping the Forest of Arden with the Okanagan? Not a fan. Maybe because I grew up in the Okanagan, or because it got a cheap laugh, or because the Forest of Arden is just such an important locale in the Shakespeare canon or because I just don’t like when they change names in plays to make it local that I did not like that. In the end, it wasn’t really needed.

That one gripe aside, there is no way I cannot recommend this play to newbie and snob alike. It captures this clever play for all of it’s charm and wit, and gives a quality platform for one of the greatest female roles on Renaissance drama. The musicians nail the music, and the swapping of the bard’s lines with the songs is something a purist may have a problem with most of the time, but in this play it really works. The only detraction is that Rosalind’s epilogue gets cut in lieu of “All You Need is Love.” Hmmm. Is that cool? Meh, whatever. It left everyone clapping.

I’ll post the epilogue here just to assuage my Shakespeare cynic guilt:

It is not the fashion to see the lady the
epilogue, but it is no more unhandsome than to see
the lord the prologue. If it be true that good wine
needs no bush, ’tis true that a good play needs no
epilogue. Yet to good wine they do use good bushes,
and good plays prove the better by the help of good
epilogues. What a case am I in then that am neither
a good epilogue nor cannot insinuate with you in
the behalf of a good play! I am not furnished like a
beggar; therefore to beg will not become me. My
way is to conjure you, and I’ll begin with the
women. I charge you, O women, for the love you
bear to men, to like as much of this play as please
you. And I charge you, O men, for the love you bear
to women—as I perceive by your simpering, none
of you hates them—that between you and the
women the play may please. If I were a woman, I
would kiss as many of you as had beards that
pleased me, complexions that liked me, and breaths
that I defied not. And I am sure as many as have
good beards, or good faces, or sweet breaths will for
my kind offer, when I make curtsy, bid me farewell.
(exeunt)
  – Rosalind

If you have not already, and if you’re in Vancouver, you’ve got to check out this play. BOB added more performances, but don’t be lazy; they will sell out.

The company of As You Like it is a quality blend of personalities with solid energy and incredible comic timing. Ben Carlson (orange and brown ensemble) as Jaques is melancholic brilliance. (Photo: Tim Matheson. Bard on the Beach)

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