As You Like It: In Rehearsal

Not sure what to expect from our OUDS production in the Playhouse? We caught up with the director, Christopher White, to talk about their creative process…

After four weeks of
rehearsal, it still feels like we’ve only scratched the surface of As You
Like It
. It is undoubtedly one of Shakespeare’s most complex and demanding
comedies, and so getting into the minds of the characters has been our goal
from the start.

 Our initial
discussions centred around what the play was about. We isolated two vital
strands that flow through As You Like It: love and broken families. The
first is quite obvious, but the second less so. We realised that the major
characters in the play lacked adequate father figures. Celia’s father is
violent and controlling. Rosalind’s father left her behind to escape to Arden.
Orlando and Oliver’s is dead. (And don’t even get us started on the complete
lack of mothers).

Our discussion of
family helped us to feed into our understanding of love in As You Like It.
A major question is why Rosalind and Orlando fall in love so quickly. While it
is impossible to understand  exactly why
anyone falls in love, a reasonable guess at one of the reasons has to be that
they see their own reflection in the other — a confused young person with no
parents around to help and few options left.

Love needs flirtation
to fully blossom, and so an exercise we developed in the rehearsal room was the
idea of playing the flirtation ‘game’. The ‘game’, played between Rosalind and
Orlando, demands that the character try to conceal their true feelings, teasing
with glances and physical touches but nothing overt enough to confirm the other
person’s suspicions. It is this uncertainty, I believe, that gives the famous
courtship scenes such energy, and that, I hope, has given the actors the
ability to link their characters to their own experiences.

The prospect of using
candlelight to aid the storytelling in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse has been one
of the most exciting parts of directing As You Like It, and feeds into
my aim of bringing out the contrast between the lighter and darker elements of
the play. At the moment, however, we’re exposed to the elements in the
President’s Garden in Magdalen College, Oxford, ahead of our run at the Sam
Wanamaker next week. We couldn’t be performing in a more different venues.
There are no candles in Oxford. The style of acting, of interaction with the
audience, is radically different, and poses its own set of challenges. But the
core of our work on character and relationships hasn’t changed, and that’s
what, I hope, will stay with the cast throughout the tour.

As You Like It will play in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse until 12 August. Book Tickets