The actress spoke to Love London Love Culture’s Emma Clarendon about bringing Shakespeare’s As You Like It to London’s parks and squares this summer.
Hi Katharine, thanks so much for talking to Love London Love Culture. How excited are you about to be part of bringing As You Like It to London’s squares and parks?
Believe me when I say that over the moon is not an exaggeration. Every day I come into work it’s a pleasure – the whole team is brilliant and it’s so wonderful to work on such a joyous play and in such gorgeous settings that will only add to the play. I’ve built it up now but, honestly, I don’t think audiences will be disappointed.
What was it in particular that made you want to be a part of this production?
I loved the idea of setting the story in the early 70s. It was a time of freedom and pushing boundaries. We’ve added flavours of the first Glastonbury and women’s liberation and I loved that – especially as an aid to the cross-dressing. Having Rosalind in a world where she wants more than she is dealt or where she feels she can’t truly be herself really shines a light on gender roles that not only reflects the time it’s set but also makes us look at how we think about women now.
Being such a unique way of presenting Shakespeare’s play – can audiences expect plenty of surprises from the production?
I hope so! Being outside will, as I said, bring a new life to the story. As most of the play is set in the forest of Arden it’s such a luxury to actually be outside where we can feel grass beneath our feet and touch the trees. We also have some new surprises in terms of changing the gender of the characters. We have a 60/40 split in favour of women in the cast so there are some of the male characters being played as women which you might not expect.
What are your impressions of Rosalind as a character?
I equally love and hate her – and that’s what makes her so wonderful. What is so brilliant about her is that she isn’t just one thing, she is multifaceted. She’s complicated and she contradicts herself. I adore how her verbose and intellectual she is and yet that’s partly her downfall. It’s such a treat as an actor to have a character that completely dominates the scenes they’re in – it’s not as usual for women in theatre as you might hope,
How important do you think it is to present theatre in this way to make it accessible for more audiences to enjoy? Of course it’s immensely important. I was very lucky as a child that my parents were able to take me to the theatre frequently and once I saw a Shakespeare play I was hooked. By making theatre like this I hope we can give people the same thing – for some of them this will be on their doorstep! This is a story about love and change and it’s so joyous that I hope by bringing it to them and by having it in so beautiful a setting they will feel that joy and take that away with them. They’ll be hooked too!
If there is one reason that people should come along to one of the performances – what would it be? If it’s one thing it has to be the play – it has everything you’d ever want in it (which actually means there’s more than one reason!) It’s funny and touching and it has all the classic elements of Shakespeare – wit and cross dressing and music and dancing. It will be new but without losing its essence. And wrestling – you’re going to love the wrestling!