‘Bard on the Beach: As You Like It’ review
By Sonam Kaloti, Arts Editor
“You have to hide!” says Touchstone, an employee under Duke Frederick’s business.
“Why?” says Corin, a farmer from the mystical, peaceful forest of the Okanagan.
“’Cause it’s Shakespeare!” Touchstone says in reply, as though it were obvious.
Bard on the Beach is an exciting opportunity for anyone looking for an organic thrill. Located in Vancouver’s Vanier Park, directly across the beautiful shores of Sunset Beach, the outdoor tent event puts on various Shakespeare plays throughout the summer. As You Like It, directed by Daryl Cloran, is a wonderful adaption of the original Shakespeare play into a somewhat modernized musical version, boasting tributes to 25 Beatles songs.
The musical is set in Vancouver in the 1960s and begins with a dispute between brothers Oliver and Orlando de Boys, which results in Orlando escaping to the land of the Okanagan to be free of his older brother. Meanwhile, Rosalind is banished by her uncle Duke Frederick (who had also banished his brother, Rosalind’s father, Duke Senior to the Okanagan) from Vancouver. However, Celia, Duke Frederick’s daughter and Rosalind’s cousin, runs away with Rosalind to the Okanagan as well, but not before Rosalind and Orlando have hopelessly fallen in love with one another. Rosalind and Celia escape Vancouver by taking on secret identities: Rosalind disguises herself as Ganymede, a young man, and Celia as Aliena, his sister. In the Okanagan all the exiled characters meet, and we watch their relationships grow and transform, all while the two girls remain in disguise.
“[The actors] seem like a very connected ensemble. They listen to each other well and it was very entertaining to watch,” said Mara Ozarchevici, a first-year student in the Future Teachers program, in an interview with the Other Press. However, she said, “At times they could have been more grounded, [as] a lot of them were jumping around on stage. At times it worked, but sometimes it distracted from what was going on in the moment.”
Actors of Bard put on an impressive show. From acting, playing instruments, singing, and dancing to stage set-up, it’s hard not to ask, “What can’t they do?” Throughout the play there are many instances when the crew must improvise their lines and these moments make it all the easier to acknowledge their skill in the craft. In the performance I attended, at one point a helicopter flew above the grounds and the actors all went quiet, merely looking up to the sky in unified confusion for a prolonged moment. This alone caused an uproar of laughter in the audience.
The actors bring life to the archaic language of Shakespeare, so the spectators do not feel alienated. This benefits the play greatly, since theatregoers can fully connect with the emotions presented on stage—laughing during comedic scenes, crying during sad scenes, and of course gasping when metal trash cans are kicked out of anger by Duke Frederick himself. The performers can captivate their audience to the extent of causing the room to be impressively hushed.
There is a character in this play for everyone, from the flustered, infatuated Orlando to the melancholy Jaques. Silvius, a lovesick farmer who is constantly rejected by his crush, is a notable character reminiscent of a Shakespeare version of Goofy from Mickey Mouse.
The sets and costumes are confusing, to say the least. The first set looks like someone has gathered up their basement collection of random items gathering dust and thrown them onto the stage; items include a wrestling ring, 1960s band instruments, and a Vancouver skyline backdrop, further furnished with metal chairs and tables which serve little to no purpose in the play itself. The second set is more concise, comprised of decorative trees (and other nature items) and a groovy 1960s van decorated in none other than hippie-style flowers. The costumes themselves aren’t necessarily bad; however, while some characters wear what appear to be Shakespeare-era clothing, others are dressed in 1960s clothes, and some are even dressed in our present-day type of outfits.
Lighting on set is good throughout the musical, with colours changing very precisely with the live music and acting. The music, played by the actors switching in and out of instruments and scenes, pulls the entire production together, setting the mood for every scene.
“This was definitely a great experience and I definitely recommend it to anyone,” said Ozarchevici.
Bard on the Beach puts on amusing, heart-warming productions, and it would be simply outrageous for anyone not to go experience one of their joyful renditions of Shakespeare’s plays.