The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) has released new artwork for its forthcoming production of As You Like It, directed by Omar Elerian, which runs in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon between 17 June – 5 August 2023.
Challenging the stereotypes and pre-conceptions associated with growing older, this playful and provocative new take on As You Like It features a company of actors most of whom are aged over 70.
The artwork features, l-r, Geraldine James (Rosalind), Malcolm Sinclair (Orlando), Maureen Beattie (Celia), Cleo Sylvestre (Audrey), Oliver Cotton (Jacques) and James Hayes (Touchstone). Image by RSC Visual Communications. Photography by Hugo Glendinning.
In Elerian’s production a company of veteran actors - many of whom have a strong history with the RSC – together with four younger actors will perform one of Shakespeare’s most joyous tales. On a stage transformed into a simple rehearsal room, the actors will gather to conjure a long gone show of which nothing is left but their fading memory of it, celebrating the magic of theatre and its unique power to make our imagination soar in an ode to young love, old age, and theatre itself.
Commenting on the production Elerian said: “When the RSC got in touch about directing the play, I was really keen to explore it from a fresh and new perspective; I was also hoping to work with actors who had a huge experience, of both Shakespeare and life. Much as the play is traditionally associated with young love, I feel there’s something really powerful in rediscovering the themes of freedom and love from the perspective of older age.
“I’ve therefore cast the play almost exclusively with performers who are past the age of 70. Allowing the actors’ age to be both very present in the audience’s mind and yet be forgotten throughout the production feels to me like one of the most immediate demonstrations of how theatre can be a place of wondrous possibilities and imagination - not only to seek escape from the relentlessness of our daily lives - but also to create a sort of literal, communal ‘compassion' for our shared humanity.”
The full cast is: Celia Bannerman (Phoebe), Maureen Beattie (Celia), Michael Bertenshaw (Oliver), Hannah Bristow (Player), Oliver Cotton (Jacques), David Fielder (Silvius), James Hayes (Touchstone), Geraldine James (Rosalind), Tyreke Leslie (Player), Mogali Masuku (Player), David Sibley (Corin), Malcolm Sinclair (Orlando), Robin Soans (Duke Senior/Duke Frederick/Hymen), Cleo Sylvestre (Audrey), Ewart James Walters (William / Charles the Wrestler) and Rose Wardlaw (Player).
Joining Omar on the creative team are Ana Inés Jabares Pita (Designer), Jackie Shemesh (Lighting), Will Gregory (Music), Elena Peña (Sound), Annabel Arden and Jos Houben (Movement), Tim Crouch (Creative Associate) and Matthew Dewsbury CDG (Casting Director).