RSC comes of age with new As You Like It

Published: 12 May 2023
Reporter: Steve Orme

First day of rehearsals: the cast of As You Like It Credit: Ellie Kurttz
Maureen Beattie who will play Celia
Geraldine James who will make her RSC debut as Rosalind

A company of actors aged mostly over 70 have been cast in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s next production of As You Like It.

Omar Elerian who is directing his first production for the company said, “when the RSC got in touch about directing the play, I was really keen to explore it from a fresh and new perspective; I was also hoping to work with actors who had a huge experience, of both Shakespeare and life.

“Much as the play is traditionally associated with young love, I feel there’s something really powerful in rediscovering the themes of freedom and love from the perspective of older age. I’ve therefore cast the play almost exclusively with performers who are past the age of 70.

“Allowing the actors’ age to be both very present in the audience’s mind and yet be forgotten throughout the production feels to me like one of the most immediate demonstrations of how theatre can be a place of wondrous possibilities and imagination—not only to seek escape from the relentlessness of our daily lives but also to create a sort of literal, communal ‘compassion' for our shared humanity.”

Four younger actors will be part of the cast. Elerian added, “the four younger members of the company will act as understudies as well as participating in the act of conjuring the memory of this long-gone production of As You Like It. Script in hand and ready to spring into action, they’ll complement with their youthful exuberance the mastery of their more experienced colleagues in a playful and touching encounter between generations.”

Celia Bannerman (Phoebe), Maureen Beattie (Celia), Michael Bertenshaw (Oliver), Oliver Cotton (Jacques), David Fielder (Silvius), James Hayes (Touchstone), Tyreke Leslie (player), Mogali Masuku (player), David Sibley (Corin), Malcolm Sinclair (Orlando), Robin Soans (Duke Senior / Duke Frederick / Hymen) and Ewart James Walters (William / Charles the Wrestler) all return to the RSC.

Making their RSC debuts will be Hannah Bristow (player), Geraldine James (Rosalind), Cleo Sylvestre (Audrey) and Rose Wardlaw (player).

The creative team features Ana Inés Jabares Pita (designer), Jackie Shemesh (lighting), Will Gregory (music), Elena Peña (sound), Annabel Arden and Jos Houben (movement), Tim Crouch (creative associate) and Matthew Dewsbury CDG (casting director).

As You Like It will run in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford from Saturday 17 June until Saturday 5 August.

    Related listings

  • As You Like It - William Shakespeare (Royal Shakespeare Company)

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