Sykes goes back to her roots for As You Like It at the RSC

Published: 9 February 2019

Kimberley Sykes is returning to the Royal Shakespeare Company to direct a “fierce, exhilarating version” of Shakespeare’s romantic comedy As You Like It.

Her last RSC show was Christopher Marlowe’s Dido: Queen of Carthage in the Swan Theatre in 2017.

The forest in As You Like It is central to the play. Directors have to decide how to show it and what it represents.

Sykes said, “when you look into trees and their behaviour, they’re extraordinary. There’s a network of roots in a forest, so all the trees are connected to each other. The success of the forest depends on the success of every single tree within that forest.”

She explained her vision for the production. “In many ways the play is a massive exploration of theatre itself. So there will be elements of panto, live music and stand-up comedy. There’ll be audience interaction, political debate and improvisation.

“Although everyone will look and feel very modern, we’ll be using a real mingle-mangle of costumes from different productions, and will be playing with different genres, different times, different periods. It’s going to be a real mish-mash that celebrates the art of theatre making.”

The cast comprises David Ajao (Orlando), Charlotte Arrowsmith (Audrey), Patrick Brennan (Corin), Graeme Brookes (Charles / forester), Anthony Byrne (Duke Senior / Duke Frederick), Richard Clews (Adam), Tom Dawze (William), Amelia Donkor (Silvia), Laura Elsworthy (Phoebe), Sandy Grierson (Touchstone), Emily Johnstone (Amiens / Le Beau), Karina Jones (Martext), Alex Jones (lord), Sophie Khan Levy (Celia), Lucy Phelps (Rosalind), Sophie Stanton (Jacques), Aaron Thiara (Jaques de Bois / Dennis) and Leo Wan (Oliver).

Stephen Brimson Lewis will design the set, with Bretta Gerecke designing both costumes and lighting. Music is composed by Tim Sutton, with sound by Jonathan Ruddick and movement by Ayse Tashkiran. Fights are by Rachel Bown-Williams and Ruth Cooper-Brown. Puppetry director and co-designer is Mervyn Millar.

As You Like It runs in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre from Thursday 14 February until Saturday 31 August. Press night will be Thursday 21 February. The production will be broadcast live in cinemas on Wednesday 17 April. It will then tour until 4 April 2020.

Steve Orme