Victoria Esplanade, Palmerston North

06/03/2014 - 15/03/2014

Production Details

After our road trip to The Square in 2013, Manawatu Summer Shakespeare returns to Victoria Esplanade in 2014 for its 12th annual production with one of the Bard’s best loved and liveliest comedies. 

As You Like It is perfectly suited for outdoor presentation, being largely set in the Forest of Arden, and is set to be a vibrant and engaging production. It is directed this year by Grant Mouldey, who has been working overseas – including directing a segment of the Paralympics Opening Ceremony in London.

Costume design will be by Sofie Welvaert whose costumes for Dunedin Globe Theatre’s Macbeth recently won the city’s theatre award in the category, and it features a cast and production team that combines well-established and award winning /nominated crew and performers, and Summer Shakespeare debutantes.

With all this the show promises to continue the excellence that Manawatu audiences have come to expect.

6, 7, 8, 9, 13, 14, 15 March @ 7.30pm 
Matinee 8 March @4.30pm
Bush opposite children’s paddling pool, Victoria Esplanade, Palmerston North
Entry is by Koha on the night

Theatre ,

Awash in environmental ambience

Review by Richard Mays 12th Mar 2014

Perfect. Conditions for opening night of Summer Shakespeare couldn’t have been better, and the sequestered roadside Esplanade glade provides a beautiful setting for this alfresco arcadian comedy. 

Jess Hong’s performance as Rosalind isn’t too far off the magic ‘‘p’’ standard either. Best buds with her cousin Celia and daughter to the uncle who has kicked her father out of his dukedom, Rosalind is also forced into exile.

The girls decide to run away together – Rosalind disguised as Ganymede, a young man, with Celia as his sister Aliena. With them goes them Touchstone the court jester – but not before Rosalind has fallen for Orlando, the disenfranchised younger son of the deceased Sir Rowland De Boys, a former friend of her father. 

Orlando too has to split into the forest to escape Oliver, his murderous elder brother. When the pair meet up, Jess gets to show Rosalind’s improvisational versatility as a woman in love who is pretending to be a young man and trying not to give herself away. It’s a role she handles admirably. 

There are some nice touches between the lovers – one of the best is the speechless scene when both meet and are smitten, during the aftermath of a wrestling match Orlando was supposed to lose. 

It’s the re-encounter between the pair in the Forest of Arden just before interval that helps spark the show, which up to that time has been languishing a bit in the pace department. 

Lana Sklenars’ Celia is a great foil for Rosalind and has some delightful sparkling and expressive moments. As the melancholic Jaques, Philip Mills has a commanding voice, but the famous ‘‘All the world’s a stage’’ speech becomes a bit laboured. Tobias Lockhart as Silvius, a love-sick shepherd, and Brie Shaw as the petulant Phebe and unwilling object of his affections, provide a winning cameo. 

There are a number of ingenious touches. Leda Farrow’s striking fold-up portable decorated trellising that backdrops the court scenes, a flaming campfire, Chinese style lanterns, and Sofie Welvaert’s costumes add to the evening production’s pastorale palette.

Enhancing the overall performance is the appropriate and evocative original score by Suzie Hawes for euphonium, accordian, violin and clarinet, embellished by the beautifully pitched vocals of Josh Royal and Shivarn Stewart.

Plenty to enjoy then on a fine late summer’s eve, in a play awash in environmental ambience, with some laugh-out-loud humour, and topically, even: a same sex wedding.


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