22 September 2021

Lakespeare secures teacher of the stars to direct As You Like It

| Ian Bushnell
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Tony Knight

Former head of acting at NIDA Tony Knight will direct As You Like It. Photo: Lakespeare & Co.

Open-air, free Shakespeare will return in 2022, under the direction of an Australian drama icon.

Canberra theatre company Lakespeare & Co has decided to chance its arm at delivering Shakespeare By The Lakes IV next February and March with its production of As You Like It, directed by former head of acting at the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) Tony Knight.

Adelaide-based Knight has trained and mentored a who’s who of Australian actors including Cate Blanchett, Sam Worthington, Toni Colette and Anna Torv in his 24 years at NIDA.

Shakespeare By The Lakes co-founder and Executive Producer Taimus Werner-Gibbings said Knight was secured with the help of Canberra theatre identity Karen Vickery, who has also lectured at NIDA.

“It’s really exciting and interesting to see what he wants to do – how he wants to do it,” Taimus said.

The ongoing COVID-19 situation and a loss of corporate and remodelling of ACT Government funding means this will be the company’s most challenging production yet.

But it hopes that by the end of the year with vaccination rates hitting their marks and restrictions easing, that it will be able to pull it off.

A new crowdfunding campaign has been launched and it is hoped that as the situation improves some of that corporate funding will return.

“In 2018, Canberrans helped launch Shakespeare by the Lakes I with online crowdfunding donations of more than $7000,” Taimus said.

“Because we only have enough money to pay for one free show in 2022, we are asking Canberrans to help us pay for a second through another crowdfunding campaign.”

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If anyone can put on a show under some form of COVID restriction, it would have to be Lakespeare.

“Barring a complete lockdown, our model is probably the most feasible you could imagine,” Taimus said.

“If you need 10 square metre space per person we can do that in a park.

“We did a show last summer during ‘COVID constraints 1’ and we know how to do that.”

The venues will depend on funding. Staging a production in Glebe Park might prove difficult, but Patrick White Lawns and Tuggeranong Town Park look promising.

Past free shows have been staged at Tuggeranong Town Park, Glebe Park, the ANU and Lanyon Homestead, as well as Queanbeyan’s Queen Elizabeth Park.

As well as the free shows, Lakespeare will likely stage some boutique paid performances at venues such as Poacher’s Pantry and Pialligo Estate.

Lakespeare production

A Lakespeare production at the ANU last year. Photo: Lakespeare & Co.

Taimus said auditioning was underway via short phone videos, and hopefully face-to-face when lockdown ends, but Taimus, Duncan Driver and Lainie Hart are already cast.

“It was tough enough before COVID-19 to produce three seasons of free Shakespeare to crowds of 2000 people, and we will be lucky if the fourth season avoids a sea of troubles,” Taimus said.

“However, we will take up arms and do everything we can to make Shakespeare by the Lakes IV happen.

“If we get significant and generous support from big-hearted community-minded corporate sponsors in Canberra, from the ACT Government and especially from Canberrans donating to our crowdfunding campaign, then everything is possible.”

As You Like It is a beloved Shakespeare comedy, featuring mistaken identities and wandering jesters as well as enchanted forests and one of the bard’s most celebrated lines:

“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances …”

Donations can be made at https://www.mycause.com.au/p/263455/shakespeare-by-the-lakes-iv-as-you-like-it-one-more-free-show

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