Gender bending Shakespeare on Brownsea

WILLIAM Shakespeare created several female heroines who disguised themselves as men – Portia, Viola, Rosalind etc.

This summer’s Brownsea Open Air Theatre takes the practice a step further.  Director Brian Woolton has decided to cast four of As You Like It’s traditionally male characters as women, providing an interesting new angle on the story.

As You Like It opens on the Brownsea sward on 26th July, and as always is scheduled to play on Mondays, Wednes­days and Fridays until 11th August. Inter­vening nights are left clear in case incle­m­ent weather forces the cancellation of the previous night’s planned performance.

This version of the ever-popular love story starts as Rosalind, left behind in court after her mother, Duchess Senior, has been banished by her aunt Duchess Frederika, meets a handsome young wrestler, Orlando. His family is a bit dysfunctional, too. His brother Oliver hates him and plots his death.

Before you know it, Rosalind has been banished too, and with her cousin Celia heads into the forest to find her mother, dressing as a boy to avoid unwelcome attention. Orlando also escapes to the forest. Both are engergised by their first-sight attraction, so when they meet up (Rosalind disguised as Ganymede) the “boy” pretends to enact the role of Orlando’s beloved.

With sub plots involving banished duchesses, clowns, rustic lovers and a very pessimistic philosopher, this is a delightful play which continues to appeal to all ages, and is a perfect BOAT choice.

Marie Bushell, a familiar face on Dorset stages, plays Rosalind, with Naomi McQuin as Celia. Orlando and his brother Oliver are played by two company newcomers, Jack Edwards and Paul Naidu.

Stuart Glossop plays the clown Touchstone, with Harry Susser as philosophical Jacques.

Dawn Hollington is the Duchess Fred­erika, with Rachael de Courcy Beamish as La Belle (usually Le Beau), Elaine Harry as Duchess Senior (Rosalind’s mother) and Martha  Jenkins as the musician, Lady Amiens.

The cast is completed by several familiar BOAT actors and some newcomers in this, the 54th season of the company founded by Joyce Caton to celebrate the Shakespeare Quatercentenary in 1964.

Tickets to BOAT performances include the ferry crossing from Poole Quay to the island. For more information, visit the website, www.brownsea-theatre.co.uk for telephone 07845 782924.