As You Like It
National Theatre production at the Old Vic Theatre
Opened 3 Oct 1967
Closed 17 Feb 1969
Role: Orlando

William Shakespeare's comedy As You Like It at times has been called a subversive play that exposes the instability of gender roles and traditional values. The play questions matters of gender, rank and social order.

The play includes Rosalind, one of Shakespeares greatest comic heroines, and the the plot involves Rosalind donning a masculine disguise and becoming a young man named Ganymede.

The National Theatre Company's production of As You Like It took the matter to quite another level, as director Clifford Williams decided to use an all-male cast. These were not high-voiced boys -- as used in Shakespeare's time -- but grown men.

Williams said his aim was to investigate love in an atmosphere of spiritual purity that transcends sexuality. "The results could have been objectionable or hilarious," a New York Times reviewer noted, "but they are merely poetic."

Reviews were mixed, but critics largely agreed the production was bold. The New York Times reviewer was most glowing: "As You Like It is fantastic, one of the most dazzling, sheerly enjoyable Shakespearean productions I have ever seen."

He also praised Ronald Pickup as Rosalind -- as well as his leading man: "Within a minute or two you forget that this lanky, touching figure is a man (although he makes no effort to disguise his voice) and you see him as a soul in love. ... Mr. Pickup is fortunate to have such a sensitive and expressive Orlando as Jeremy Brett."

This was Jeremy's first role with the National Theatre after having rejected Sir Laurence Olivier's previous overtures -- Jeremy had instead gone to Hollywood to be in My Fair Lady.

After finishing with Any Just Cause, Jeremy attended a dress rehearsal for another National Theatre production. At the time, he knew that Orlando had not yet been cast and coveted the role. He cut a fringe in his hair -- to look the part -- and walked up to shake Olivier's hand. Olivier roared with approval and offered him the role as Orlando.

In addition to the controversial all-male casting, the play had other challenges. Early in the play, Jeremy and another actor had to wrestle for more than two minutes without a word of dialogue to sustain the scene. This action was so robust that Jeremy broke his nose during one performance. Olivier paid to have it fixed, but Jeremy joked that "my new-shaped nose gives my face character at last."

THE PLOT AND GENDER BENDING

In As You Like It, Rosalind is the daughter of an exiled duke. She falls in love at first sight with Orlando, a young gentleman at court who has just defeated Charles, the duke's wrestler, in something of a death match.

Orlando is equally smitten with Rosalind, but before things can go any further, they are forced from the court. Orlando leaves after being persecuted by his brother, and Rosalind is banished by the new, evil duke. She flees to the Forest of Arden, disguised as a young man named Ganymede.

Here's where the National Theatre production could get verrrry confusing...

Rosalind -- as Ganymede -- encounters Orlando in the forest and pretends to counsel him to cure him of being in love. Ganymede says he will take Rosalind's place and he and Orlando can act out their relationship. (OK, so at this point we have a male actor, playing a woman, who is disguised as a man, who is pretending to be a woman. Got that?)

Meanwhile, several love triangles and quadrangles have broken out and several characters wrangle over who is in love with whom.

Finally, Ganymede resolves the problem by having Orlando promise to marry Rosalind. Ganymede later reveals him/herself as Rosalind. That enables the rest of the relationships to shake out in satisfactory fashion.

In addition to Ronald Pickup as Rosalind, other actors playing female roles included Charles Kay as Celia and Anthony Hopkins as Audrey. Jeremy's best friend, Robert Stephens, played Jacques to great acclaim.

The play was very '60s -- with Carnaby Street fashions and synthetic stage materials making up the Forest of Arden.

 


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Los Angeles Times article (PDF)

National Theatre page

Wikipedia page

Full text of play

Time magazine review

New York Times article (PDF)
 

Plot Summary from Matt Monroe's UNC Shakespeare Summaries

CAST:

Duke Senior:  Paul Curran
Frederick:  Frank Wylie
Amiens:  Roderick Horn
Jaques:  Robert Stephens
Le Beau:  Lennard Pearce
Charles:  John Flint
Oliver:  Neil Fitzpatrick
Jacques:  Stuart Campbell
Orlando:  Jeremy Brett
Adam:  Harry Lomax
Dennis:  Nigel Lambert
Touchstone:  Derek Jacobi
Sir Oliver Martext:  Oliver Cotton
Corin:  Gerald James
Silvius:  John McEnery
William:  Alan Adams
First Court Lord:  Robert Walker
Second Court Lord:  Saam Dastoor
First Forest Lord:  Michael Martin
Second Forest Lord:  Donald Bisset
Hymen:  Grayston Burgess/Geoffrey Mitchell
Rosalind:  Ronald Pickup
Celia:  Charles Kay
Phoebe:  Richard Kay
Audrey:  Anthony Hopkins
In this play, Duke Frederick (the younger duke) usurps his older brother, Duke Senior, and banishes him to the Forest of Arden. Frederick goes on to banish Duke Senior's daughter Rosalind. Frederick's daughter, Celia (Rosalind's cousin) flees her evil father with Rosalind and they head (along with Touchstone, the clown) to the Forest of Arden. Before leaving, though, Rosalind falls in love with Orlando and he with her after he beats Charles in a wrestling match. Orlando, the younger son of Sir Rowland, had rebelled at being kept a virtual prisoner by his older brother, Oliver. Duke Frederick and Oliver had hoped that Charles would kill or cripple Orlando in the match, but Orlando managed to throw and injure Charles. Soon after, Orlando flees his older brother, Oliver, after their servant Adam warns Orlando of Oliver's plans to kill him. Orlando and Adam also flee to the Forest of Arden. Duke Frederick, upon finding Celia, Rosalind, and Orlando missing, orders Oliver to find them, or face banishment himself.  In the Forest, the cousins, disguised as Ganymede (a male) and Aliena, and the clown Touchstone purchase a shepherd's hut, a flock, and a pasture from two shepherds, Corin and Silvius. In another part of the forest, the banished Duke Senior discusses the philosophizing of his melancholy courier Jaques, who is even more mad and morose than usual due to the singing of another courtier, Amiens. When Duke Senior meets him, however, Jaques is now merry, having met the clever fool, Touchstone, in the forest. Meanwhile, Orlando has been desperately searching for food, and, with a drawn sword, he enters Duke Senior's banqueting place and demands food. However, Duke Senior greets Orlando with unexpected kindness and welcomes him and Adam to his camp.  Orlando, knowing that Rosalind is somewhere in the forest, wanders through the forest hanging love verses to Rosalind upon the branches of trees. Rosalind finds the verses, and, pretending to be a male (Ganymede), she talks at length with Orlando about his true love, Rosalind. As Ganymede, she offers to pose as Rosalind and to allow Orlando to practice his wooing with her. Meanwhile, Touchstone is planning his own romance with Audrey (a sheepherder), though a commoner named William also seeks Audrey until Touchstone scares him off. "Ganymede" witnesses the love affair of Phebe and Silvius, two shepherds; Phebe treats Silvius coldly and "Ganymede" chides her for it, but Phebe instantly falls in love with "Ganymede", thinking Rosalind is a he. After "Ganymede"leaves, Phebe decides that she will write a love letter to "him" and have Silvius deliver it.  Silvius delivers the letter, and Rosalind decides that she will remedy the situation and help Silvius get Phebe by eventually revealing that "Ganymede" is a she. The exiled Oliver finds "Ganymede" and tells "him" that, while sleeping in the forest, he was saved from the attack of a lioness by his brother Orlando. Orlando was wounded and asked Oliver to bring a bloody napkin as proof of the fight and as explanation for missing his appointment with "Ganymede". "Ganymede" faints, then pretends that she was faking, though Oliver comes to realize that "Ganymede" is really Rosalind.  Orlando and Oliver are now reconciled, and Oliver tells his brother that he has fallen in love with "Aliena", the disguised Celia. They will be married the next day. Orlando returns to "Ganymede",still not knowing it is Rosalind because Oliver keeps her secret. He  laments that he cannot marry his Rosalind tomorrow, but "Ganymede" promises to make it possible via magic. At the wedding, "Ganymede" reveals that "he" is actually Rosalind, causing Orlando to rejoice. Additionally, Phebe is forced to marry Silvius since she can no longer marry "Ganymede". Now, Hymen, the god of marriage, marries Orlando and Rosalind, Oliver and Celia, Silvius and Phebe, & Touchstone and Audrey. After the wedding, Jaques de Boys (a new Jaques), a long lost brother of Oliver and Orlando arrives with the news that Duke Frederick was converted to good by an old religious man, and has requested that all of the banished people return home and have their estates back. Lastly, Rosalind recites an epilogue, requesting the audience enjoy the play as much as they please, and not more.