Bard On The Beach

Shakespeare Festival

As You Like It

Tiffany Lyndall-Knight, Dion Johnstone, Helen Taylor, Dean Paul Gibson, Christopher Gaze, Christopher Weddell, Donald Adams, David Marr, David Mackay, Jane Spence, Patricia Idlette, Brian Linds, Allan Morgan, Andrew Wheeler, Francis Boyle, Kerry VanderGriend, Trevor White, Jan Wood and Raugi Yu.

At Vanier Park (near the Planetarium)

June 18 to September 26 (Tuesdays through Sundays)

In repertoire with Richard III

For info call the Bard Box Office 739-0559 or TicketMaster 280-3311


by Roxanne Davies

As I sat watching As You Like It, two thoughts came to mind. Why on earth did I choose to wear open-toed sandals and a summer dress to sit in a cool tent for nearly three hours? And if all the world's a stage, then one with the North Shore Mountains and Stanley Park as a backdrop must surely be one of the prettiest venues that Vancouver has to offer.

This is the ninth season of the Bard on the Beach and it has grown both in professional polish and audience appreciation. A Midsummer Night's Dream, the first play staged in 1990 ran 34 performances and attracted 6,000 theatregoers. Last year's Love's Labour's Lost and The Winter's Tale ran for 106 performances and 40,000 summer theatre lovers. By all indications, and with the support of the U.S. consulate and marketing to our neighbours in the south, this summer should exceed those numbers.

The Bard on the Beach Festival has found a winning formula by featuring both a comedy and a drama in repertory, a tactic sure to appeal to different tastes. Richard III is an intricate drama filled with murder, revenge and betrayal. As You Like It is not only one of Shakespeare's more light-hearted and rollicking plays, but it is also the most wordy and makes great demands on the different characters as they strive to maintain the necessary fast paced activity to make the play succeed. Since most of the actors perform in both plays, it must surely be a challenge to change gears several times each week.

As You Like It also contains one of Shakespeare's most famous and oft quoted soliloquies, "All the world's a stage...", spoken by the melancholy Jacques, a Lord attending the banished Duke. Full of wisdom and wit, the speech was admirably performed by David Marr. He also got my surprised attention when he flung the apple he was munching on out through the open backdrop. It was a magic moment and seemed to underscore the motif of the speech, which remains one of my favorites.

As You Like It revolves around divided lovers, sibling rivalry, banished dukes, rustic philosophy and an abiding belief that all will end as we like it. It centers on the love match of Rosalind and Orlando and the merry band that surrounds them. This production is set in turn-of-the century Russia, and although it seemed a strange choice of staging, it seemed to work. I sometimes expected the actors, dressed in Russian tunics, to break into Chekhov and not Shakespeare.

Under the direction of set designer, Ted Roberts, the stage was transformed from forest into palace with the use of large banners sliding into place. The stage provided ample space for the large cast although they would also come bounding onto it from various doorways through the audience, which simply added to the often madcap atmosphere of the play.

Tiffany-Lyndall-Knight played the role of Rosalind, around whom much of the action revolves with the right mixture of goodness and sexuality . Energetic and articulate, Lyndall-Knight carries the plot along as she first creates and then untangles the web she weaves to woo Orlando.

Dion Johnstone, a handsome and muscular actor (when he isn't wearing a tunic, he goes bare chested!) plays a good and noble Orlando, victim of his evil brother's abuse. Johnstone has an incredibly strong and sure vocal ability, and I thought he played the role a little too broadly, but then again, it was the opening night performance I attended, and perhaps he will tone down his role as the summer progresses.

When I asked my son, who was my theatre-mate for the evening, which actor he liked the best, he said the servant Adam, played by artistic director, Christopher Gaze. Gaze is the well-known face behind the festival, one of its most enthusiastic promoters, and also a very fine actor. He plays the minor role with a humble and endearing shuffle that seemingly touched my sixteen year old.

Speaking of children, although there is enough action and stagecraft to keep teens amused for the evening, it may be a tad long for younger children. In fact, I noticed one couple with their four year old soundly asleep on their laps throughout the performance.But it is highly unlikely that this production would put anyone to sleep.Whether it's the well-choreographed wrestling match, the pretty wedding finale ,or the lovely and original music written for the play by George Ryan, there is something to appeal to everyone.

As Rosalind says at the very end of the play ,"My way is to conjure you..." This sparkling summer production is sure to captivate you. And by the way, take my advice and wear enough warm clothes to stay comfortable for the three-hour production.

Copyright 1998 Roxanne Davies