It turns out that Pop-up Globe’s As You Like It is exactly as I like it: funny, loud, brash, musical and packed with heart.
Fresh from two sold-out, extended-by-public-demand seasons in Auckland, Pop-up Globe finds an ideal home in arts capital Melbourne. Perched on the hill at King’s Domain, the impressive structure is surrounded by rolling lawns of Sidney Myer Music Bowl, where audiences can take in sweeping city views while snacking from handy food vans before the show.
Presenting a generous selection of four Shakespeare plays in repertory, the Pop-up Globe Theatre Company have justifiable confidence in their winning formula. Whichever play one might choose from the evenly matched set of two comedies and two tragedies, the key attraction is the overall experience. Whether standing in the Groundlings enclosure, seated in the circle or sipping champagne in a royal box, there is a sense of togetherness in the audience. Lights stay on, and everyone can see everyone else’s reactions, as can the actors, who regularly interact with the crowd as a whole as well developing running gags with specific audience members.
Based on the second Globe, the extraordinary structure is based on extensive research. The theatre has a vast thrust stage and a scaled down audience capacity, allowing for an intimate and immersive viewing experience. The choice of standing, sitting or dining allows for a range of tickets, starting at a very accessible $20.
Performed in authentic 1600s style, voices and music are all acoustic, only white light is used and the entire cast is male. The actors’ projection is uniformly excellent, and they manage to continually engage and interact with audience members from the full 270o spectrum of the auditorium. If any current audience members have forgotten the Globe scenes from hit 1998 movie Shakespeare in Love, they may be more familiar the Braavos theatre troupe who presented The Bloody Hand within Game of Thrones season 6.
Opening night of the Melbourne season saw the comedy As You Like It get the Pop-up Globe treatment. Director Tom Mallaburn keeps comedy broad and energy sky high. Judicious editing keeps the dialogue crackling along, and the interpolation of current humour is neatly balanced. The wit in the added physical humour is quite astounding, often having the audience roaring with laughter. Running jokes, sight gags, innuendo and pratfalls are just part of the repertoire of humour, all cleverly based on Shakespeare’s intended characters and plot.
If there was not enough humour resulting from men playing women (one of whom subsequently disguises herself as a man), additional delight is derived from the quite natural choice to switch the role of shepherdess Phoebe to shepherd Phebus. A powerful statement is made by the way that not a character on stage cares a fig that Shepherd Silvius wishes to marry his beloved Phebus.
Best of all, Mallaburn is a superb storyteller, ensuring that, amidst the hilarity, the key facets are telegraphed clearly. The story is a slow burn, but the ultimate scenario of four pairs of yearning lovers come to fruition beautifully.
Many of the ensemble cast of 16 performers play double roles, many play instruments, and all have to sing and dance. The talent is terrific, and the joy of the actors as they perform is completely infectious.
Jonathan Tynan-Moss is absolutely charming as Rosalind, gradually setting aside the comedy to portray the dilemmas that arise from the character’s decision to hide as a man. Tynan-Moss takes would could have been a caricature and delivers an affecting dose of humanity, bringing the show to a warm conclusion with his sincere work in the epilogue.
Michael Mahoney maintains compelling energy as Touchstone. Stanley Andrew Jackson III is a delight as the coy Celia. Chris Huntly-Turner is pretty in pink as the camptastic Le Beau.
Special mention goes to Antonio Te Maioha who delivers clear, even dialogue while doing push-ups (that’s push-ups with a clap between each!).
Mixing culture, food and drink, and an open air stadium, Pop-up Globe is pretty much Melbourne’s perfect night out.
As You Like It plays in repertory with Much Ado About Nothing, Othello and Henry V at Pop-up Globe, Melbourne until 12 November 2017.
Photos: Jay Wennington