Ever felt love was confusing? Well, your love life will look like a walk in the park after you see Shakespeares As You like It.
The play follows the story of friends Celia (Andrea Carne) and Rosalind (Ruby Drewery), living under Celias tyrannical mother, Duchess Frederika (Frances Marrington). One day Rosalind meets Orlando (Colin Smith) who she falls madly in love with but before anything can happen between them Rosalind is banished from the court. Celia, a loyal friend, hatches a plan to disguise themselves and escape together to the forest with Rosalind dressed as a man.
As fate would have it Orlando is hiding out in the forest from his vengeful brother and he meets Rosalind (dressed as a man). Rosalind uses these strange circumstances to find out whether he truly loves her or not, with most of the play dedicated to this pantomime perpetrated by Rosalind. Watching Rosalind spin her complicated web of lies can be confusing and at times I felt exhausted trying to keep up with her. Ruby Drewery plays Rosalind with an incredible amount of energy making you believe she is truly powered by love.
Rob Pensalfini’s Touchstone is another highlight of the play. The horny, arrogant and belligerent man who destroys any person who crosses his path with his fiery wit charms the audience with his spiteful humour. Pensalfini delivers Touchstones soliloquies brilliantly and brings to life this comical brute in such a way you hate and love him at the same time.
It is hard to fault the Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble at any point with such great actors. The scenery is minimal but is inconsequential with the actors painting the scenes with their voices and actions; they entrench you in the story so vividly the props often just fall into background of your mind. Also the directors decision to put the audience on the parkland stage facing out into the seating area meant the actors were given a completely natural background complete with a natural soundtrack and unpaid extras!
As with most QSE productions music is a large part of the action and is a complete delight. All the actors seem to be singers or musicians with the band set to the side of stage and actors going back and forth between their instruments and the action: a versatile cast to say the least.
Director Paul Adams has used his extraordinary cast with exact precision, effectively using the space by spilling the action into the park. This is a comedy that can be enjoyed by young and old, reflected by the widely assorted audience last Sunday night. I was enthralled from start to finish.