As You Like It

Roma Street Parklands (GNT2)


Professional production

Brimming with life, GNT2’s production of Shakespeare’s “As you Like It” is simply wonderful. It pokes fun at the mystery and folly of love with a light touch.

The audience sits on the stage of the Roma Street Parklands amphitheatre while the actors of Grin and Tonic Mark II strut their stuff against the grand backdrop of a Brisbane winter night. It is an apt setting for the melancholic Jacques (Jamie Stewart) to deliver the familiar lines:
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.”

It is easy to imagine we are in the Forest of Arden to which Duke Senior (Bryan Nason) has been exiled.

Director Vanja Matula’s production is dynamic. The confident authority of experienced actors such as Bryan Nason and Paul Sherman (who plays the ageing servant Adam) gives a moral centre to the pyrotechnics of the younger brigade such as Jamie Stewart, Christina Koch (Celia) and the stunning Zoe de Plevitz (Rosalind).

Consider, for example, Celia’s comforting words to her cousin and good friend Rosalind upon Rosalind’s being exiled by Celia’s father, the usurper Duke Frederick. Celia has made the courageous decision to stick with Rosalind and abandon the court. Christina Koch delivers her lines not with mere youthful stoicism, but with something stronger, more joyful:
Now go we in content
To liberty, and not to banishment.

Zoe de Plevitz’s tour de force as Rosalind has us laughing with her teasing of poor love-struck Orlando (Vanja Matula); but she also succeeds in conveying the beauty and wisdom that underlie the character.

Bring your winter woollies. The audience is in the open air but sheltered under the canopy of the amphitheatre. “Blow, blow, thou winter wind” is better as a line in the play than as a piece of reality theatre.

Forty-two years ago Bryan Nason kicked off the College Players which became the Grin & Tonic Theatre Troupe which in turn is morphing into GNT2. Nason’s great and ongoing legacy has been to inspire his players with a preternatural love of creative drama, free from the parochial constraints of the Sydney and Melbourne theatre establishment. To use his own words, Nason is “now slowly edging towards the sideline” but clearly this happy troupe is in good hands. Nason has taught them well to wrestle with the dramatic paradox uttered by the court jester Touchstone (Ross Lowe): “We that are true lovers run into strange capers; but as all is mortal in nature, so is all nature in love mortal in folly.”

Written by William Shakespeare

Directed by Vanja Matula

Playing until Saturday 18 June at 6.30pm

Running time 1hr 45 mins (no interval)

— Matt Foley
(Performance seen: Fri 10th June 2005)