Review by Adam Collier
I went to see the Canopy Theatre Company’s production of As You Like It, which is being staged outdoors, on the Philosopher’s walk. I had never been to a show outdoors before. The experience is pretty cool.
This play, especially because a big chunk of it is set in a forest, seemed to benefit enormously from being outside. There was spontaneity in the air. The sounds of the city –were all around, and for me, in the context of all this extra sound, the language of the play really hit.
It wasn’t the sounds – emergency sirens, raccoons cooing – that added significance to what was being said. It was because when the actors were really fighting to be heard, the words they choose to emphasize, and the way they spoke, carried very clear intentions for me. I was easily able to follow what was going on.
In the vacuum of a theatre I some times find myself distracted by focusing on how words are being spoken. The perfect quiet is so unnatural to me that the nuances of language can sound foreign. One of the wonderful things I found about listening to scripted dialogue outdoors is the way the outdoors tested the significance actors wanted to attach to words. I bought the action even though the language is completely out-of-date, because the passion behind the words seemed squarely rooted in the present moment.
But even more than that, what was really great was, at times, feeling like I wasn’t watching a show being put on for me at all. I didn’t feel like a theatre patron or whatever the most proper term for an audience member is. I felt like an observer. There were exceptions to this feeling of course, for example at the end when four couples simultaneously swap vows.
It’s funny but I never realized the truth of ‘the world is a stage, and every man a player’ – lines from As You Like It – until seeing how, once you take the pretences of a formal set and encumbering theatre, drama is not all that much different from life.
There was one time when I was a bit confused about what was going on, and that was when Celia first enters with shopping bags. I found myself distracted by wondering what time period the play was set in. This question soon emulsified though, because there’s nothing else in this production indicative of a historic period.
Also, if I were to go again – which I might – I’d also sit closer to the front so I could hear everything. Both my friend and I had trouble hearing when the actors weren’t facing us directly, and I think the only way to really correct against that is to go closer to them.
– As You Like It is playing at Philosopher’s Walk (80 Queen’s Park)
– Shows are at 8pm Wednesdays to Saturdays and run until August 2, 2008
– Tickets are $10, or $8 for Students and Seniors and are available in advance at the UofT tix Box Office, or at the door (cash only at the door) Wednesdays are PWYC
– Seating is on the grass, so don’t forget to bring a blanket to sit on