Sunday, February 27, 2022



As You Like It by William Shakespeare. 

Directed by Tony Knight. Composer Jay Cameron. Choreographer Annette Sharp. Lakespeare.ACTUBTheatre. Kingston. February 25 2022

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins 


As You Like It, and you will love it, is Lakespeare’s latest triumph. I was fortunate enough to catch director Tony Knight’s magnificent production of Shakespeare’s comedy at the newly created ACTHUB Theatre in Kingston.  As You Like It has been playing to large open air audiences at various venues around Canberra. Originally Shakespeare’s hugely popular comedy was performed in around 1599 in one of London’s fine residences. The play is ideally suited to the intimate in the round staging at Art Hub.

Jake Fryer-Hornsby as Orlando 

 Natasha Vickery as Rosalind

Lovers of Shakespearian comedy will recognize many elements of the play’s plot and the overarching theme of Love that directs the very motives and actions of the characters thrust together in an unfamiliar setting. Rosalind, daughter of the deposed Duke Senior, is banished from the court by the Duke’s evil brother, Frederick. Either because of the paucity of male actors, or Knight’s deliberate intention to unsettle the conventional, he has cast Heidi Silberman in the roles of the wicked Duchess Frederika and Rosalind’s exiled mother and the rightful duchess. The wicked Duchess’s daughter and Rosalind’s best friend Celia (Ylaria Rogers) decides to accompany Rosalind (Natasha Vickery) into exile. At the same time Orlando (Jake Fryer-Hornsby)), whom Rosalind instantly fell in love with when struck by Cupid’s arrow after Orlando defeated the powerful wrestler Charles (Max Gambale) in a wrestling match has fled to the forest to escape a murderous plot by  his evil brother Oliver (Andrew Macmillan). To escape detection, Rosalind disguises herself as a young man, Ganymede, and Celia assumes the persona of an ordinary woman, Aliena and thereby hangs this highly entertaining tale of love and misconception. Some audience may take some time to figure out who is who and what is going on, but Knight has alleviated the perplexity by cutting the script to its essential narrative, He also has directed a highly talented, youthful and energetic cast with skillful differentiation. All the characters have their unique part to play upon the stage and they play them to absolute perfection.

Ylaria Rogers as Celia. Andrew Macmillan as Oliver
 At first the lovers, smitten by each other’s adoration. The role of Rosalind is one of Shakespeare’s most coveted roles, played through the ages by all the leading actresses of their time. Flighty, pragmatic, doubtful and assertive, Cupid’s victim and the manipulative mistress of Love’s emotion , Rosalind is the pivot upon which the comedy spins. Natasha Vickery is charismatic in the role, engaging and bewitching, a vulnerable victim on one hand and a commanding servant of Love’s design on the other. Rogers as Rosalind’s foil imbues Celia with a feistiness too seldom attributed to Rosalind’s companion. Celia is after all the strong willed daughter of powerful parentage. It is intelligent casting and Rogers’ gives a very refreshing and savvy performance. As Rosalind’s love interest, Orlando is the likable innocent, naïve in the affairs of the heart, romantic in his response and clumsy in his expressions of devotion as members of the audience are invited to become the trees on which he places his clumsy poetry. Fryer-Hornsby evokes fond affection. His bewilderment is endearing and he plays Love’s fool with boyish innocence. As do the other poor men sorely pierced by Cupid’s arrow, namely Silvius ( Lachlan Herring) and Touchstone (Shae Kelly).

And then appears mischievous Love that doth make fools of us all. Rosalind loves Orlando, but is disguised as a man. Silvius loves Phebe (Katerina Smalley) but Phebe loves Ganymede, poor lass.. Not so foolish but still besotted, Touchstone the banished court fool revels in a sexual love for simple country girl Audrey(Anneke Van Der Velde). And so the plot twists and turns, spinning on Love’s devious trickery. All this is played with sparkling energy by an outstanding ensemble of actors under the direction of a masterful interpreter of Shakespeare’s wit and wisdom. There is wrestling; there is dancing, there is music both Elizabethan and contemporary, played by travelling minstrel and composer Jay Cameron on guitar and sung so sweetly with captivating voice by Smalley. If this be wizardry, magic on!

Katerina Smalley as Phebe
 It is reported that George Bernard Shaw dismissed As You Like It as being too light and lacking the gravitas of Shakespeare’s more serious works. Lakespeare’s production would dispute such a claim. To dispute such criticism, Shakespeare offers the comedy the melancholic Jacques, played with such eloquent distinction and humanity by Karen Vickery who lends the role a maturity and wisdom with a complexity often overlooked by actors. There is a moment when Vickery comforts Orlando’s loyal manservant Adam (Ryan Stuart), weary and hungry from his travels through the forest that tugs at the heartstrings. It is played with such gentle and comforting understanding by the very same Jacques who can as easily reprimand, condemn, dismiss and descend into a philosophical gloominess. Vickery’s humanity shines through every moment that she is on stage and it is a stroke of brilliance to cast an actress of such stature in this role.

 Karen Vickery as Jacques. Heidi Silberman s Duchess.

 Anneka Van Der Velde as Audrey

 There is so much to applaud in this production. I may quibble with the Canberra in joke references to entertain the groundlings  (Now! Now!) and a Bush Capital audience, but I would rather it be used for a G and S show. In the debate between Corin (Gambale) and Touchstone the foppish fool, Shakespeare’s affection for his rural birthplace and its simple honest people like Silvius and Phebe and Corin and Audrey is palpable and appealing.

Knight’s direction is precise, detailed and knowledgeable bristling with humour and inventiveness.. An excellent cast illustrates his skill as an actor’s director and this is a production that will linger long in the memory as a glowing tribute to the talent in Canberra and the genius of Shakespeare and his enduring gift to all humanity. All’s well and ends well in As You Like It. if very much according to the conventional expectation of its age. Love’s Labour lost in the case of Phebe and Gannymede is Love’s Labour gained for Silvius with Rosalind’s ingenious intervention.

Audiences fortunate enough to have seen this production of As You Like It can count themselves blessed to have been at any of the open air or interior venues when Lakespeare and its brilliant company created a home grown production of Shakespeare’s human comedy to rival the very best there is. Lakespeare is a jewel in Canberra’s theatrical crown and it is time to support a company that proves too well that it is a Canberra cultural treasure.