The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) has today announced full casting for its forthcoming production of As You Like It, directed by Omar Elerian, which runs in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon between 17 June – 5 August 2023.
Challenging the stereotypes and pre-conceptions associated with growing older, this playful and provocative new take on As You Like It features a company of actors most of whom are aged over 70.
Commenting on the production Elerian said: “When the RSC got in touch about directing the play, I was really keen to explore it from a fresh and new perspective; I was also hoping to work with actors who had a huge experience, of both Shakespeare and life.
“Much as the play is traditionally associated with young love, I feel there’s something really powerful in rediscovering the themes of freedom and love from the perspective of older age. I’ve therefore cast the play almost exclusively with performers who are past the age of 70. Allowing the actors’ age to be both very present in the audience’s mind and yet be forgotten throughout the production feels to me like one of the most immediate demonstrations of how theatre can be a place of wondrous possibilities and imagination – not only to seek escape from the relentlessness of our daily lives – but also to create a sort of literal, communal ‘compassion’ for our shared humanity.”
In Elerian’s production a company of veteran actors – many of whom have a strong history with the RSC – together with four younger actors will perform one of Shakespeare’s most joyous tales. On a stage transformed into a simple rehearsal room, the actors will gather to conjure a long gone show of which nothing is left but their fading memory of it, celebrating the magic of theatre and its unique power to make our imagination soar in an ode to young love, old age, and theatre itself.
Talking about the younger members of the cast, Elerian said: “The four younger members of the company will act as understudies as well as participating in the act of conjuring the memory of this long gone production of As You Like It. Script in hand and ready to spring into action, they will complement with their youthful exuberance the mastery of their more experienced colleagues in a playful and touching encounter between generations.”
The full cast is: Celia Bannerman (Phoebe), Maureen Beattie (Celia), Michael Bertenshaw (Oliver), Hannah Bristow (Player), Oliver Cotton (Jacques), David Fielder (Silvius), James Hayes (Touchstone), Geraldine James (Rosalind), Tyreke Leslie (Player), Mogali Masuku (Player), David Sibley (Corin), Malcolm Sinclair (Orlando), Robin Soans (Duke Senior/Duke Frederick/Hymen), Cleo Sylvestre (Audrey), Ewart James Walters (William / Charles the Wrestler) and Rose Wardlaw (Player).
Omar Elerian is Olivier award-nominated director, writer and dramaturg. As You Like It will be his first production for the RSC. A graduate of the Lecoq International Theatre School, Paris, Omar was the resident Associate Director at the Bush Theatre from 2012-2019, where he commissioned and directed some of the theatre’s most successful shows. As a sole director for the Bush Theatre, his credits include smash-hit Misty by Arinzé Kene (Bush, West End, New York), NASSIM by Nassim Soleimanpour (Bush Theatre, Traverse Theatre and a world tour), Going Through by Estelle Savasta and Islands by Caroline Horton.
In 2022, Omar translated and directed the Olivier Award-winning Kathryn Hunter and Marcello Magni and Toby Sedgwick, in a new revival of Eugène Ionesco’s tragic farce; The Chairs (Almeida), a show described by The Guardian as “a gloriously fizzy cocktail of slapstick, physical theatre and silliness”.
Joining Omar on the creative team are Ana Inés Jabares Pita (Designer), Jackie Shemesh (Lighting), Will Gregory (Music), Elena Peña (Sound), Annabel Arden and Jos Houben (Movement), Tim Crouch (Creative Associate) and Matthew Dewsbury CDG (Casting Director).