JWR Articles: Live Event - As You Like It (Director: Jillian Kelley) - June 4, 2016

As You Like It

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Relegating the audience to set dressing and extras

Let’s make this brief.

People come to the theatre to walk away from life as we know it for a few hours. Comedy, tragedy, musical or farce, it’s a comfort and sometimes a pleasure to sit in the dark, becoming voyeurs to other people’s lives, even knowing that when the curtain falls, nothing has changed in the “real” world.

In recent years, the seemingly unstoppable rise of social media has put individuals in the driver’s seat on a number of fronts. Previously, corporations—as just one example—told the public what they could buy, do or experience. Nowadays, corporate decisions can be reversed or changes made as soon as the number of tweets, likes or views goes viral. Elections can be lost or won depending on Internet chatter rather than detailed knowledge of political platforms.

Jillian Keiley’s decision to redo As You Like It as a kitchen-party from The Rock in the 1980s probably sounded good as a pitch, but fails miserably in the execution.

Hosted in late night talk show style by Hymen (Robin Hutton being the hostess with mostest), the production easily found its Newfie roots in the music, but was MIA in the actual play—two worlds (Newfoundland/Shakespeare’s England) trying to coexist but never really understanding each other. As metaphor it’s superb, as theatre it’s a dud.

Providing most of the audience with a loot bag containing everything from glowing stars to carrots to party hats soon had the paying patrons following the celestial leader, dutifully employing or hiding the props as ordered by Hymen Who Must Be Obeyed. In the closing wedding scene, a precious few were invited to take to the thrust stage (bride’s or groom’s side pre—arranged) and flesh out the ceremony.

One can only wonder whether ACTRA (the actor’s union) might file a grievance….

In the end, the play wasn’t the thing, with audience participation too frequently trumping the Bard’s intent.

It’s not hard to imagine (as is already the case at most conferences) the patrons being coaxed to providing their two cents via Twitter on screens that flank the stage.

Then before you can say, “Me I,” scene endings will be decided by likes and the actors will be replaced by far-less-expensive members of the public who (like instant filmmakers on YouTube) judge themselves to be ready for public consumption. No worries, the audience will be invited to have the final say on who plays the show tomorrow by spending $.99 and casting their votes.

What have we done here?

Or to put it another way: Oh me nerves, you got me drove.* JWR


*(You’re driving me crazy.)

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Playwright - William Shakespeare
Director - Jillian Kelley
Further information, future screening/performance/exhibition dates,
purchase information, production sponsors:
Stratford Festival
Cross-reference(s): Please click on the image link(s) below
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Reader's Forum
June 6, 2016

The actors’ union with jurisdiction over the Stratford stage is not Actra but Canadian Actors Equity. Small detail you got wrong. The rest of the review is even more out to lunch. Consider reviewing kindergarten shows perhaps? More your range.

Guy S. Montreal, Canada

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