27
Feb
12

la boite’s shakespeare: as you like it

As You Like It 

La Boite Theatre Company

The Roundhouse

18.02.12 – 24.03.12

La Boite’s theatre is perfect for Shakespeare: it’s open and alive and allows actors and audiences to come together to share the joy.”

La Boite Theatre Company’s Artistic Director, David Berthold.

Have you ever been a part of Woodford Folk Festival’s shared joy? For the first show of La Boite’s 2012 season, David Berthold has brought a little bit of Woodford to The Roundhouse Theatre and it’s truly wonderful. The Forest of Arden IS Woodfordia and Berthold’s As You Like It is full to overflowing with the same joy, love and good karma. Bill Hauritz will be pleased.

Boasting exceptional performances and containing the best bit of fight choreography we’ve seen at La Boite, indeed; the best we’ve seen in Brisbane in a good while, by (Lead Fight Director this time) Justin Palazzo-Orr, this is a show for everybody. It’s funny and witty and heaps of fun. We are reminded by this play, that Shakespeare’s writing is so good, not only does it stand the test of time but also, it continues to appeal to all sorts.

Probably the most convoluted of the comedies, with a massive cast – in terms of programming, it often loses out to the more popular Twelfth Night – the plot of As You Like It may be unfamiliar. In simplest terms, the love story is central: girl meets boy, they fall instantly in love, girl disguises herself as boy, boy meets girl disguised as boy and they hang out in the forest together, become mates and wed, the girl’s true identity revealed on their nuptial day. Duke Senior and his merry men also inhabit the forest – their commitment is more permanent, their lifestyle a good deal greener and they provide much of the perspective of the play.

Director, David Berthold and Designer, Renee Mulder, have created, with suits and city skirts and jeans and flannel shirts, the look and feel of last year’s Woodford. Woodford has changed since its humble beginnings in the Maleny show grounds and the new mood has been perfectly captured. Rosalind (the remarkable Helen Howard) and Celia (Helen Cassidy) wear black, Cue-style suits and the latest season’s chunky suede shoes, which is just as well, because in narrower heels it’s a challenge to tread the shredded playground rubber that covers the floor of the theatre. As the god, Hymen, in his glittering, high-heeled disco diva boots, Alec Snow is a standout amongst student interns and puts to shame with his confident strut, many of the women in the audience (no offence, no-less-confident women in the audience. It’s just that Snow got to rehearse and as such, he looks to be a contender for the next run of Priscilla)!

Centre stage is a circular dais, which suddenly rises, in a simple, beautiful and breathtaking reveal, earning surprised applause from the opening night audience. Colourful lanterns, indie folk music (props to vocalist Lucy-Ann Langkilde, ready for a Chai Tent chalkboard gig), Tony O’Connor style forest sounds by Composer and Sound Designer Guy Webster and pretty, dreamy lighting, all amber and blue and pink, thanks to David Walters’ trek-out-to-the-Amphitheatre-after-the-Lantern-Parade-passes-by inspired lighting design, all combine to bring the magic of Arden Forest to our midst.

It’s not just the design that is stunning. The performances are superb. We can see the company at work on the next generation of actors, with a stronger focus on training and mentorship this year (there are eight interns in this production), doing their bit to close the gap between accomplished performers and the new, eager actors. Holding their own, in that middle ground where the graduates dwell, are Luke Cadden and Dominic Nimo, in their La Boite debuts.

Bryan Probets, as the jester Touchstone, manages to steal the show early on and later, whips up the audience in a riotous chorus; an old-fashioned, call and answer, effortlessly interactive theatre moment. His comedy is cleverly marked and he appears completely relaxed – delighted in fact – to be entertaining us. How lucky are we? The other exquisite moment in this piece belongs to Trevor Stuart, as Jaques. His delivery of the famed “All the world’s a stage” seven ages of man monologue is magnificent. If it has never stayed with you before, it will linger with you now.

All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances,

And one man in his time plays many parts,

His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,

Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.

Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel

And shining morning face, creeping like a snail

Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,

Sighing like a furnace, with a woeful ballad

Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,

Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,

Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,

Seeking the bubble reputation

Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,

In fair round belly with good capon lined,

With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,

Full of wise saws and modern instances;

And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts

Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,

With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;

His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide

For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,

Turning again toward childish treble, pipes

And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,

That ends this strange eventful history,

Is second childishness and mere oblivion,

Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

Kate Wilson and Hayden Spencer, play their parts beautifully; the first, kind and wise and generous as Duke Senior, as comfortable in the forest digs here as if it were home, high on the Range, and the second, the mincing miss shepherdess, Audrey, in his hippie mountain chic attire, posing and pouting to make us laugh ‘til we cry. Kathryn Marquet brings Phoebe to life.

Helen Cassidy is a lovely Celia and she is well paired with Helen Howard as Rosalind. These two are a celebration of the sisterhood! Howard is a striking woman and it’s easy to watch her every move. That being said, it’s just as easy to be completely distracted by the Adonis good looks of the Bard Boy of Brisbane, Thomas Larkin, in the role of Orlando. We’ve seen his naked torso for some time now, in an image for his upcoming role (Romeo) in QTC’s Romeo and Juliet. But you know this. You’ve seen the poster and you’ve had your say on Twitter too, I’ll warrant. For those who have been living under a tree at Woodford, Larkin’s co-star, Melanie Zanetti, looking extremely young (just as Shakespeare intended… half her luck) has been the subject of some controversy, stirred by a single complaint from a woman on the Gold Coast. While I look forward to seeing him in Romeo and Juliet, as Orlando, we see Larkin in his best role to date.

As You Like It is a show of superlatives. Whether or not ideas are borrowed, this is a brilliant interpretation; it doesn’t miss a beat. If you’re feeling like a bit of a lift, this is the best show you can see in Brisbane this month. It’s gorgeous, guaranteed to please. It’s what the world needs now; love, sweet love, and pure, unadulterated Woodford-all-year-round shared joy. Do yourself a favour and see this one. It’s guaranteed to reinvigorate your soul and warm the cockles of your heart.

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