I was five or so minutes late for Siren Theatre Company’s production of ye olde Bill’s As You Like It, at Carriageworks. It was upon this fashion bequeathed me by dodgy diarisation. Nonetheless, I quickly got into the spirit of this clownish piece; one I think the bard would’ve been enthusiastic about. There were moments when there was a sense of declamatory amateurism (indeed, the delivery was uneven), but there are plenty of fresh ideas in director Kate Gaul’s version, and more than enough to make for a thoroughly enjoyable experience. It is, dare I pun, just as you might like it, albeit not without its drawbacks and problems; mostly open to resolution.
One of its outstanding features is Daryl Wallis’ musical composition: playful; comical; delicate; melodic; filmic. Despite sensitive and refined playing, however, there are many points at which dialogue and, thus, text, is obscured, or compromised, by the volume of piano and percussion transcending the actors’ capacities for such. It’s about mixing, acoustics and projection, all of which need to be looked at. And while the composition, playing and singing (by Ali Hughes, as Hymen) was absolutely lovely in its own right, it was a little too intrusive, despite all good intentions.
Luiz Pampohla’s almost cabaret-style lighting was moody and intriguing, while Jacqueline Lucey’s costumes were fanciful, out-there, ‘cut-and-pasted’, mixed, matched and mismatched; sometimes dubious, sometimes delightful, but mainly the latter. Tim Reuben’s magic, woven throughout the work, suited the ethereal, fairytale aesthetic wonderfully well, and Natalia Ladyko’s choreography colourfully embellished several characters, particularly Nicholas Papademetriou as, I think, a whirling dervish-like Duke.
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Speaking of Papademetriou, who I’ve often been impressed by, his projection oft left something to be desired: it’s a demanding space, in which both elocution and sheer force of breath are of the utmost importance. In this respect, as in others, Shauntelle Benjamin, as Rosalind, and Jane Phegan, as Celia, are virtually flawless.
Julian Curtis puts a contemporary spin on his lines as Orlando, bringing the role into the 21st century, through his deployment of a physical and inflective vocabulary which very effectively straddles our and Elizabethan time. Regrettably, though, like Papademetriou, his more subtle asides were sometimes obscured by near inaudibility. Had this been ‘As You Like It, The Movie’, that mightn’t have been an issue.
There were plenty of other treats on stage, including Nick Meenahan’s sentimental bloke-style Touchstone, a circus-tent, larger-than-life caricature of the broadest Australian proportions, landing somewhere between Les Patterson and Jack Lang. As his belle, Audrey, the stocky-limbed, hirsute Alan Flower cut a hefty, but fine, not to mention hilarious, figure. And Anthony Weir’s delivery of the most famous speech from this play, in his guise as the melancholy Jaques, was perhaps the most artfully casual and compelling rendition I’ve ever heard.
So, rather than fleet the time carelessly, watching Project Runway or I Used To Be Fat, or the MasterChefs that are probably to blame, roll into Carriageworks for the time of your life. Siren’s As You Like It buys, quite beautifully, into the fantastical and parodical spirit that coursed through Shakespeare’s veins, of humour. Yes, on the whole, I will speak goldenly of its profit. Lose yourself in the forest of Arden for a couple of hours. It’s time, I’m certain, far better spent than on Facebook.
The details: As You Like It plays Carriageworks until May 7. Tickets through Ticketmaster.