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Call to Stratford
ELLE Canada reviews As You Like It at the 2010 Stratford Shakespeare Festival
By: Ava Baccari, Photography courtesy of Stratford Shakespeare Festival
If you’re in Stratford, Ontario this summer, you likely fall under one of the following categories—Feel free to organize yourself accordingly:
1) Bieber-obsessed tweens fanning across the city with a “Bieber-iffic Map” (I kid you not) retracing the spots the pop sensation lunched, dated and went to school, as part of a City of Stratford tourism plug.
2) Just-as-loyal Christopher Plummer fans flocking to the Festival Theatre to catch Captain Georg Von Trapp in this Stratford season’s (un)official headliner, Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
When I left the ELLE Canada office Friday afternoon for the three-hour trek to Stratford (1.5 if you have a map and know how to follow it,) I fell into neither of those categories: for my BFF’s birthday gift, we headed out to see Shakespeare’s As You Like It. I hereby declare it the third reason to make your way to Stratford for its eponymous Shakespeare festival this summer.
Walking into the Festival Theatre, it’s instantly clear that when creating a Shakespearean production, you can’t go wrong with an enchanted forest stage set. Director Des McAnuff brings the Bard’s rom-com to life with a magical Eden (or Arden) that becomes an oasis for exiled Dukes, daughters and lovers, through orders from a World War II-esque repressive regime. No pumpkin pants here, the spectacular costumes follow the glamour of the production’s post-war setting.
Adorably paired Andrea Runge and Paul Nolan are Rosalind and Orlando, both cast away in the Forest of Arden through unrelated circumstances (the two meet at a chance encounter- Orlando’s wrestling match- and with characteristically Shakespearean swiftness, fall madly in love.) Like any good cousin, Celia (a mesmerizing Cara Ricketts) follows Rosalind into the forest— each disguised as a shepherdess and man, respectively. She too finds love, in Orlando’s sleuthing, evil-brother-turned-soft Oliver (a rightfully cast Mike Shara.) A delightfully melancholic Brent Carver delivers the infamous meta-theatrical “All the world’s a stage” line as the philosophic Jacques—the only person to remain in the forest after the Dukes and daughters and lovers return to the court, somewhere in un-named Europe.
The magic of Shakespeare’s text plays out onstage with mesmerizing musical numbers, happily-ever-after weddings (but are they really?) and a giant apple prop that puts James and his sad little peach to shame (you know the Disney movie.)
Next up, checking off number two on the list by catching The Tempest. Doubt I’ll try the Bieber tour any time soon.
Deets: As You Like It, Festival Theatre. Directed by Des McAnuff Call 1-800-567-1600 for tickets.