Why did you choose As You Like It?
I have a bit of a history with this wonderful play. My first experience of it was playing Phoebe in a production directed by Giles Havergal, then Artistic Director at the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow. More recently, I work-shopped and attended a performance of the play at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon, as part of my ongoing work towards the RSC Certificate in Teaching Shakespeare. This brought the play back into focus for me, and I started thinking about the possibilities for a production here in school. Perhaps the most significant reason for choosing it is that it offers a departure from the more serious material our actors have been exploring recently. We were all ready for something fun!
Shakespeare plays are fantastic but complex, how did the pupils take to the play?
I am a firm believer that our pupils will rise to a challenge and they have never let me down! Of course there can be initial apprehension; it’s important to communicate and ask questions to ensure that everyone understands what is being said and why. Opting for a modern day setting also helps as the cast can interpret their characters from a familiar perspective. Little touches like adding in a Lady Gaga wig, or creating a festival vibe to the forest camp, or starting the play with a character playing basketball – all these things help to place the characters and events of the play in a modern context.
What makes Albyn’s performance of this play different from others?
As You Like It is a very youthful play and our production celebrates that. One of the themes we have focused on is self-discovery, and this inspired the recurring visual motif of the suitcase in our design: what different identities do we carry around with us, and what becomes possible when we explore them? The play includes Shakespeare’s famous line ‘All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players’ and our staging reflects this concept, with a very inclusive actor-audience relationship, as people will find out when they come and see the production!
What is your favourite scene?
The transition from the court to the forest – it’s a big ensemble moment with a song that I love helping to capture the spirit of freedom.
What is your favourite quote from the play?
‘There’s no clock in the forest’ – I am constantly oppressed by time so maybe I should be living in the Forest of Arden!
What are you most looking forward to about the performances?
When I am watching the cast and know the process they have each gone through to get to the final performance. I’ll be looking for all the little details that I know have taken time and care to get right.
How have the pupils prepared for the performances?
Layers, layers, layers! We start with the big picture then delve deeper with lots of individual rehearsals to enhance characterisation before putting it all back together again. We have also had input from a stage fighting specialist which was very exciting. It really does take many, many hours – we have been rehearsing several times a week since August.
Which play would you like to do next?
I am always looking out for a contemporary play with a large cast. I am a big fan of American drama, so maybe we’ll head across the pond next time!
The pupils will perform on Thursday 27 and Friday 28 of February at 7pm in the Centenary Hall. Tickets are £10/£5 Concession and can be purchased at reception. Don’t miss out on seeing this fantastic play!