Often reinvented, Shakespeare’s plays have been performed in a post-nuclear holocaust world, and relocated to the US Civil War. They have been reset to contemporary Miami, a 1960’s pub in Ontario, and even outer space.
For the second main stage production at this year’s Bard on the Beach, director Daryl Cloran is going for the non-traditional, merging Beatle’s music and wrestling for Shakespeare’s comedy, As You Like It.
In this Q&A we find out from Cloran and actor Nadeem Philip, how this combination came together, and what it is like working on the show.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Take us beyond the press release, what is As You Like It about?
Daryl Cloran: Love in all its forms. Romantic love, with couples falling in love all over the place; family love between a father and a daughter; love between best friends; the love of the old for the young and the young for the old. The story is filled with characters writing love letters, singing love songs and waxing philosophical about the nature of love.
How are you approaching this 17th century comedy?
Daryl Cloran: I have set it in Vancouver in the 1960s, with the lovers escaping the city to the Okanagan Forest.
I also ripped out half of Shakespeare’s text and replaced it with 25 songs by the Beatles. It has become a full-on singing, dancing musical, which is perfect for this script, that was already one of Shakespeare’s most lyrical stories, containing several songs.
We’re also celebrating Vancouver’s all-star wrestling scene of the 1960’s with some fantastic WWE style wrestling. You’ll definitely want to come early as the wrestling matches start 15 minutes before the show.
What has been the greatest source of joy working on this production?
Daryl Cloran: The fifteen actors are incredible. We ask so much of them as they are all singing, dancing, acting, wrestling, and playing instruments. It’s astounding to see all their skills at play in this production. The project is wildly ambitious, but it has been a great deal of fun to put together.
What are you hoping the audience take away will be?
Daryl Cloran: I hope everyone walks away with a song in their heart, and a belief in our shared humanity.
Tell me about the character you play in As You Like It.
Nadeem Philip: Orlando is a grounded, masculine, sweetheart. I say that knowing how hilarious it is to describe my own character that way, but that’s who he is. To be honest, I’m learning a lot from him.
With such a long run, how do you keep your performance fresh from the beginning of the festival to the end?
Nadeem Philip: Speaking from the experience from my first season at Bard last year, and having recently come off a four-month tour of Arts Club’s Onegin, my keys to keeping it fresh are two-fold.
The first is spending time on improving some aspect of the performance or my understanding of the play each day, regardless of how deep into the run I am. I believe there’s always something, you never run out of stuff you could work on.
And the second is making sure the show is not the biggest thing in my life. We all stress out about the biggest, most important thing in our lives. I’m one of those people who gets less creative when I’m stressed out so to help me with keeping stress out of the equation of my performance, I try to focus on something bigger. Last season it was my wedding, this season it’s learning how to ride a motorcycle.
Who makes you laugh the most during rehearsals?
Nadeem Philip: Lindsey Angell (Rosalind) and Harveen Sandhu (Celia) are two of the funniest people I’ve ever met. And we all get each other going, to the point where you’re laughing at someone laughing, and the actual joke was ten minutes ago. Kayvon Khoshkam is also a comic god – his timing, his references. It’s a very funny rehearsal room.
Why should audiences not miss this show?
Nadeem Philip: Because a show like this only comes around once every couple of years; a show that hits all the notes of action, romance, and comedy. To top it off we’re singing and playing The Beatles along the whole ride. I think it’s the kind of show people might kind of become groupies for.
As You Like It opens in previews at the 29th annual Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival on June 12 and continues in repertory with the Shakespeare tragedy, Macbeth, until September 22. Visit bardonthebeach.org for tickets and information.