Watch this short video showing some footage from the 2013 production of As You Like It. Note what you can see about the setting and costumes as you watch, and think about the music that has been chosen to accompany the images. What would you expect if you were watching this production on stage, and what expectations does it give you about the characters?
Now think about how you would like to stage the show. Are there any elements from the video that you would like to use, or do you have completely different ideas? There are certain things that every director and creative team has to consider when staging As You Like It. The following key things will be discussed in every production, but the way you answer the questions below can create incredibly different interpretations of the play.
- Rosalind and Celia’s journey into the forest is a journey of discovery, and the way characters talk and behave in that setting is very different from the way they talk and behave in the court. How will you show this difference visually, both through design and movement? What clues does the text offer about these different places and mindsets?
- How will you differentiate between characters who have always lived in the forest, like Corin, and exiles who are staying there like Duke Senior? How much does being in the forest change people’s attitudes and outlooks?
- Music is a feature of the forest world, and wrestling is a feature of the court world. How will you show these two forms of entertainment to give the audience a sense of what these two worlds are like? Is the music of the forest gentle, cool, rocking like a festival? Is the wrestling fun, aggressive, scary?
- The court has recently undergone a lot of change, with Duke Frederick overthrowing his brother and exiling him. This background is offered in the opening scenes with Oliver and Orlando, where we also learn about their father Rowland de Bois. How important is it for the audience to know the court has experienced this change, and how will you show this? Alternatively, is it something Duke Frederick has successfully covered up?
- Even when Rosalind reaches the forest, she is still separate from the followers around Duke Senior, staying in a house Corin provides rather than living and sleeping in the forest itself. How will you present Duke Senior’s followers? They are described in the text as being like Robin Hood and his Merry Men, living and camping out in the forest. How do these followers behave and what is their relationship to the space they are in and to their leader? How will you show this? How will you create a sense of their camp and the different values Duke Senior has, in comparison to Duke Frederick?
- How does Jaques fit in to the world of the forest and to Duke Senior’s followers? How will you make Jaques stand out from the rest and how and why is this character different?
- Celia and Rosalind are very close at the outset of the play but their relationship changes drastically as Rosalind and Orlando grow closer. How will you show the strength of this bond in the court and in the opening scenes? Celia supports Rosalind by leaving with her, running away from her father and the court and choosing to support her cousin. How might you demonstrate this dedication and explore the connection they have?
- Both characters are also very different, choosing different disguises for their journey and reacting differently to the freedom they find on the road. How could you show this contrast and explore the differences between them?
Within each of these choices, there are lots of key moments and scenes to explore.
Going back through the Productions section and looking at the different performances we’ve had at the RSC, think about these two areas:
- Can you see how each director has presented the differences between the court and the forest? Why do you think they have made those choices?
- How have Duke Senior and his followers been shown on stage?
Take a look at the casebook for the 1996 production of As You Like It to view the specific choices and thinking that have informed that staging.