AS YOU LIKE IT
Bard on the Beach, Vanier Park, until September 22nd
My Two Cents
By Lillian Jasper
There’s so much to love in Bard On The Beach’s new adaptation of As You Like It. The basic premise includes love at first sight, several banishments, and a young woman disguised as a young man - pretty standard fare for a Shakespearean comedy. This version shakes it up by including a few dozen Beatles tunes sung by the characters, and for the most part it works beautifully.
From the pre-show wrestling match (extremely well-choreographed silliness), we know that we shouldn’t take anything that follows too seriously. Kayvon Koshkam as Touchstone is a constant ad-libber and scene-stealer from the get-go, consistently breaking the fourth wall to comment on the absurdity of it all. Nadeem Phillip and Lindsey Angell are perfectly delightful as the would-be lovers Orlando and Rosalind, with clear strong voices and sharp dance moves. Luisa Jojic is a comedic powerhouse as contrary shepherdess Phoebe, bringing down the house with her version of a song I will leave as a surprise (there is no song list in the program, so EVERY song is a surprise).
The superb band is made up of multi-talented actors, led by music director Ben Elliott (who also plays lovesick shepherd Silvius). They set the groove of the evening and keep it going until curtain call. However, sometimes it felt that there were just too many songs, and that they were getting in the way of the story, instead of facilitating it. Much of the play itself has been trimmed, leaving what sometimes felt like a Coles Notes version, and yet the show runs nearly three hours . I love “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” as much as the next person, but I doubt we would have missed it had it been cut.
The setting is an inspired choice. The outcasts of the forest of Arden (the Okanagan in this adaptation) feel completely right being a tribe of hippies. Ben Carlson plays philosopher Jacques with perfect pathos, moving seamlessly between Shakespeare and Lennon to great effect. Pam Johnson’ s set and Carmen Alatorre’s costumes are as loud as the band, a confectionary feast for the senses. Gerald King’s lighting is crisp and colourful, particularly in the expertly staged “She Loves You”.
Director Daryl Cloran has put together a charming, irreverent adaptation of one of the Bard’s most frivolous comedies. From the get-go, the audience is warmly encouraged to join in on the fun. It’s an ideal summer show to fall in love, sing along and bask in the beauty of the Beatles’ songs and Shakepeare’s poetry. It may be the most entertaining show I’ve ever had the good fortune to see at Bard.