By Garrett Anderson, Artistic Fellow, from ASIDES
Typically, productions of As You Like It are filled with pastoral representations of British forests, farmland and fauna. Traversing the world of Arden, however, proves tricky for the characters in the play, who are exposed to a magical, theatrical world of lions and serpents, olive groves, chestnut trees and antique roots, one where there are “sermons in stones, books in the babbling brooks, and good in everything.” For the design team creating a world where this all takes place, illustrating Arden is a real challenge.
Set and costume designer Jonathan Fensom, along with director Michael Attenborough, decided to forgo the green world in the literal sense, and leave it up to the audience’s imagination.
“I have been in the fortunate position over the last seven years to work at the Globe in London. You’re suddenly presented with a frons scaenae screen that is painted in the bizarre, weird, Alice in Wonderland way, which has birds and coronets and things all over it. I had a kind of revelation moment, when I suddenly realized that what it gave you was a stage where you could do absolutely, anything… it’s meant that I’ve sort of pared back to the essential qualities of what the play is about.”
Fensom’s design incorporates a wood grain stage that is capable of representing the rigid, minimal world of the court and, with the aid of silken curtains, transforming to the mythical world of Arden.
“We wanted it to be a space of imagination, a space where transitions can happen effortlessly. And something I’m very keen on is that every transition that we do happens in
a different way… whether it’s a revolve or you finish scene one and a curtain goes out and another one comes back in, curtains move side to side, we can fly them out at different heights.”
Take a tour through a sampling of Fensom’s storyboard for the play: