Royal Shakespeare Company recruits over 70 cast for As You Like It

Shakespeare? We’re old hands… Royal Shakespeare Company recruits cast almost all aged over 70 for a new production of As You Like It

  • Royal Shakespeare Company production of As You Like It has all over-70 cast

All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women are over 70 – or so it should be said of a new Shakespeare production.

The Royal Shakespeare Company has welcomed a cast almost exclusively aged over 70 to perform As You Like It from next month.

Veteran actors Celia Bannerman, 78, Michael Bertenshaw, 77, Malcolm Sinclair and Geraldine James, both 72, will play Phoebe, Oliver, Orlando and Rosalind respectively.

The new take on the Bard’s comedy, which was first published in 1623, has been described as an ‘ode to young love, old age and theatre itself’.

Director Omar Elerian said he wanted to explore the story from ‘a fresh and new perspective’.

The Royal Shakespeare Company has welcomed a cast almost exclusively aged over 70 to perform As You Like It from next month

Veteran actors Celia Bannerman (left), 78 and Michael Bertenshaw (right), 77, will play Phoebe and Oliver, respectively

‘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,’ he said.

‘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.’

He said four younger actors will ‘act as understudies’.

The stage will be transformed into a rehearsal room where the actors ‘gather to conjure the memory of a long gone show’.

Shakespeare’s original play follows heroine Rosalind as she disguises herself as a man to flee persecution in her uncle’s court, accompanied by her cousin Celia, before falling in love with Orlando.

The famous ‘All the world’s a stage’ monologue appears in Act II, Scene VII.

Dame Vanessa Redgrave, Adrian Lester and the late Helen McCrory have all previously played Rosalind on stage.

As You Like It will run from June 17 to August 5 at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon.

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