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As You Like It - GRADS Theatre Company

Reviewed by Paul Treasure

 

Of all the Shakespeare plays the one that just calls out to be set in our own time and place is As You Like It. There is something about the metropolitan vs rural setting and the lively country characters that just suits modern-day Western Australia. GRADS' latest production at the New Fortune Theatre has taken this very approach, and it has proven once again to work like a charm.


The lead role of Rosalind is one of the largest roles in any Shakespeare comedy and a massive undertaking for any actress. We were incredibly lucky to witness the role being tackled by Grace Edwards. Over the last couple of years, Grace has steadily become one of Perth Community Theatre’s pre-eminent Shakespeareans. She tackles this mammoth role with unflagging energy and joy, blithely flitting between Rosalind and her alter-ego Ganymede without showing a hint of effort. The apparent ease with which Grace delivers her lines shows an innate and sophisticated understanding of Shakespeare’s text, combined with the skill of a truly accomplished actor.

Charged with the unenviable task of keeping up with Rosalind, Anka Sagan gives us a well-thought-out and often hilarious Celia. Her first entrance as Aliena in a full-blown Bo-Peep shepherdess costume is a triumph of physical comedy and one of the highlights of the production. Codey Finlay gave us a beautiful and sophisticated Madame Le Beau, oozing grace and elegance with excellent fan work, and then managed to jump to the other extreme with her hearty Audrey.


In a very impressive WA debut, Jack Boggan gave a very good rendition of Rosalind’s love interest, Orlando. With very little trace of his native accent, Jack’s Orlando had very real chemistry with his Rosalind. We hope to see more of this actor in the future. Ellis Kinnear gave us a physically commanding Charles the Wrestler, and the handling of the physically and comedically demanding wrestling scene between Orlando and Charles was impeccably performed by both actors and cleverly choreographed by Nastassja Norwood.


Jason Dohle, as Oliver de Boys, managed well the dichotomy between the villainous first half of the play to the redeemed and somewhat romantic second half. Grant Malcolm, wonderfully doddery as the old retainer Adam, gave us the full effect of his gravitas as the Hymen, the God of Marriage. Demonstrating the adage that “there are no small parts…” Cas Beuster was absolutely delightful in the cameo roles of Dennis and William, winning the audience with the childish enthusiasm of Dennis’ initial entrance.


More than any other Shakespeare play, As You Like It relies on songs, not to forward the action, but to set the mood. Under the masterful musical direction of Anka Sagan, the songs, composed by Craig Williams, were very evocative and suitable for the setting. The pivotal role of Amiens, the chief musician, was charmingly played and deliciously sung by Rachel Doulton. The musicians made up of members of the cast, performed well and added to the scenes they were in.


The New Fortune is one of Perth’s more interesting venues and handled well can be a place of magic and wonder. Stephen Lee’s direction has used this venue to great effect, and the very quick transition from the court to the Forest of Arden was a masterstroke. This is a truly delightful production of one of Shakespeare’s best and most accessible comedies.

Jack Boggan (Orlando) and Grace Edwards (Rosalind)

Reviewer Note: Paul has previously directed a version of As You Like It, in 2023 for Roleystone Theatre. Tickets for this review were provided by the theatre company.

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