Cross dressing, an “out of the closet” homosexual, a few bogans and you have the recipe for Nash Theatre’s new production of As You Like It. “It will have you rekindling your love for the Bard” is the theatre’s promise, which is largely kept.
June Balfour and Nigel Munro-Wallis join forces to contemporise the traditional script, transporting the audience from the delicate Forest of Arden to the fly-infested Australian outback.
Set and costumes are minimal but used effectively. The set primarily consists of a simple stage with one lighting state and three free-standing boards as backdrops. Australian foliage could have been used more generously throughout the set to further the romantic atmosphere being established. Scene changes at times detract from the pacing of the play.
It was delightful to hear the Australian accent handling the complexities of the Shakesperean language. There is a delightful rhythm to the words and a good balance to the poetic language. The accents add a unique charm to the production and unlock a variety of comedic potential which Balfour and Munro-Wallis explore well.
The actors give new life to these characters. Gabrielle Burke’s interpretation of the play’s main character, Rosalind, is joyful and playful. Burke has some natural comic timing but could have explored this further.
Andrew Whitmore plays Orlando well, engaging in some lovely banter with Gillian Graham as Jackie. He has mastered the language to present a charming character. But perhaps lacking is a lack of chemistry between Orlando and Rosalind. The pair are less like lovers and more like twice removed cousins, with interactions at times awkward and unbelievable. There were more genuine fireworks between Celia (Khema De Silva) and Oliver (Eamonn Clohesy).
The supporting cast are a delight. A standout is Phoebe, played by Cassie Kaoustos, who despite at times over performing and “hamming it up” has the audience captivated with giggles.
There is something attractive about Shakespeare in flannel with Australian accents reciting the beautiful words. Nash Theatre has provided a fresh take on the play with some delightful performances that will leave you smiling.