The Globe brings its magic to Kilkenny
The Globe Theatre’s production of ‘As You Like It’ is set to take centre stage at this year’s Kilkenny Arts Festival. In advance of its arrival, EILEEN BATTERSBYvisited the 17th century Groomsbridge Place in England to watch the show on home ground
BROTHERLY LOVE is not exactly flourishing in the opening scenes of Shakespeare’s astutely realistic comedy As You Like It. Orlando, youngest son of the late Sir Rowland de Boys, bitterly picks apples in his brother’s orchard while voicing his resentment against the dastardly Oliver: “Besides this nothing that he so plentifully gives me,” complains Orlando to the faithful old servant Adam, “the spirit of my father, which . . . begins to mutiny against this servitude,” he says with an increasingly powerful voice.
Orlando has had enough and is no longer afraid of his villainous sibling and the pair quickly come to blows. No sooner has Orlando stormed off, followed by Adam, when news of further fraternal strife is announced. “The old Duke is banished by his younger brother the new Duke, and three or four loving lords have put themselves into voluntary exile with him . . .” Luckily for Rosalind, daughter of the banished Duke, her cousin Celia, the usurper’s child, is her best friend. So Rosalind has been able to remain living with her at court.
The Globe Theatre’s mercurial production of As You Like It which comes to the Kilkenny Arts Festival from August 10th until August 19th had just returned from performing in Austria when it arrived in the grounds of Groombridge Place, a 17th-century moated manor house in Kent, just inside the Surrey border. It is a sunny summer’s evening, so unexpectedly balmy that most of the audience appear to have come in groups, intent on showing how the art of picnicking should be done.
Tablecloths, wine glasses, platters of assorted cheeses and designer chocolates are being arranged on the small tables that have materialised out of the boots of reliable family cars.
Although the mood is relaxed, rather party-like, watch is being maintained on the large wooden container that has been discreetly positioned behind the simple stage. A small bust of Shakespeare, placed on top of the container, overlooks the scene. The heavily-wooded surroundings easily suggest the Forest of Arden.
Groombridge is also home to an unusually vocal number of peacocks. Their rasping cries provide an intermittent soundtrack shared with the calls of the birds of prey kept at the Raptor Centre in the grounds. The American eagle is feeding and may be preoccupied, but its somewhat smaller African counterpart is alert to all sounds and movement. The house is familiar because it was used as the Bennet home in Joe Wright’s 2005 film version of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.