Merging classic theatre with contemporary art, ARDEN’s reimagining of Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It‘ is thoughtfully and tastefully done.
Under the direction of Julian Beckedahl, ‘As You Like It’ delivered Shakespeare’s work beautifully. Keeping the original language, the interpretation and delivery of the script brought forth moment after moment of humor and insight into the times of both Shakespeare and the present day. The actors captured the essence of the original poetic dialogue, revealing the rawness of the written word and transporting the work to modern times. While working with the classics is a challenge, ‘As You Like It’ united the past and present seamlessly — all the while avoiding patronising the audience or stripping away the beauty intended by its author.
The venue was more than fitting for the play, using a reinvented church as the home of a reimagined theatre work. In keeping with classic Shakespearean performance, the play was performed in the round. Musician Joe Gravil further enriched the ambiance of the space by creating a beautifully crafted backdrop of ephemeral strains on his guitar.
‘As You Like It’ was presented in such a way that the audience couldn’t ignore the relevance of the material in today’s society. Bending gender roles and expectations and writing same-sex relationships into the script, Shakespeare challenged the norms of his time and our time. Making a bold statement and further emphasising the timelessness of Shakespeare’s writing, ARDEN’s ‘As You Like It’ symbolically advocates for same-sex rights and acceptance. The final scene simply and powerfully portrayed love as love, regardless of gender identity.
The most relevant rendering of Shakespeare’s work I have witnessed, ‘As You Like It’ was so carefully and boldly constructed that it left me speechless and hopeful for traditional theatre’s role in the future. Work like ARDEN’s ‘As You Like It’ has great opportunity to touch audiences of all backgrounds—from those who value the classics to those who pursue the obscure and contemporary.
Hannah Rundman, originally from Michigan, USA, is an arts manager and lover of art that break the mold of established mediums. She values eye contact and art that brings diverse groups of people together.
‘As You Like It‘ runs 20 September to 4 October at the Bluestone Church Arts Space in Footscray.
This venue is accessible by wheelchair.