Join Watch Your Head as they run away with the circus for the 2016 performance of Shakespeare’s pastoral comedy, As You Like It.
Take a read through a Q&A with Sasha (Director & Founder) and Sara (Executive Producer & Founder) at Watch Your Head about the upcoming shows:
Can you tell us a bit about the company?
We’re about taking theatre in to new, different locations and putting our audience at the heart of the action.
Can you tell us a bit more about your production of As You Like It?
Great! It is a truthful presentation of As You Like It where the audience play the part of the rest of Duke Senior’s court as they follow the fallen Duke in to exile and spy on all the events occurring therein. They will then come to the final wedding party as guests to celebrate the play’s elaborate conclusion.
We have taken some of what we would consider to be more dated aspects of the play and shaken them up a bit, for example, the shepherds and shepherdesses will be portrayed by a travelling circus, which has set up camp in the Forest of Arden.
What made you decide to make this an immersive/promenade event?
The whole play is about a journey from town to country, experiencing different people, places and lifestyles and learning about oneself along the way. We feel it is key to take the audience on this physical journey and allow them to really participate in it rather than watching from the outside.
What made you go for As You Like It?
It is a beautiful and, until recently, not a particularly well-known play. As a pastoral comedy it seemed the perfect fit for The Savill Garden.
Do you think more people are engaging with Shakespeare and blocking out the (mainly) awful experiences they have of analysing it at school?
While many people who live and work in theatre are always keen to engage with Shakespeare I find that many people outside of the industry are so haunted by negative experiences and esoteric depictions that they simply choose to opt out which is such a shame. We are trying to change this and make Shakespeare more accessible.
The shows in June so hopefully it’ll be fine – are you worried about the weather? And if it’s cold, will it matter?
I don’t think you can worry about the weather when putting on outdoor theatre in the UK. Of course we’ll pray for beautiful sunshine and in June/July it’s about as safe as it gets. If it’s colder or even drizzling sometimes that allows for a more focused audience who get stuck in and commit to go through the experience together. It can even add something to the evening.
We have also set it so that the beginning and end of the show are under cover anyway so even in the event of bad weather; the vulnerability of the audience is limited.
How do you go about choosing your next project and subject for it?
It is all about matching a space with a play so we can get the very best out of both.
What are the main challenges when creating immersive productions such as this?
One of the main moving characters in the play is the audience and they are only introduced from the dress rehearsal, so we have to do a lot of forward planning and thinking about how they’re going to move and where they will be at every moment.
We also don’t have four walls so we have to prepare the actors in a slightly different way from a show in a theatre.
What do you hope your audiences will get from the show?
A brilliant evening with an understanding of Shakespeare’s As You Like It.
I know this isn’t done yet, but what’s next?
A condensed version of our A Midsummer Night’s Dream 2015 transfers to the Moat Garden at Windsor Castle at the end of August.
After that, we have some plans to go indoors over the winter.
You’re combining immersive theatre, circus, music and Shakespeare – what on earth made you decide to tackle such a mammoth project and how do you make sure none of the elements fall down?
Yes, that is true! Our rehearsals and process is all about collaboration so while combining all of these things would seem overwhelming to one person, we have brilliant musicians, circus performers and actors who make it achievable. So in many ways it is down to the people we work and can make our vision happen.
Finally, what would you say to people who say they don’t like or “get” Shakespeare?
We absolutely understand that and we think there’s a conspiratorial myth that if you’re clever or educated enough that you’ll just get it – that’s not true at all. It’s quite a different language packed full of mythological references that if you spend your life working elsewhere you just won’t encounter.
We say try something new and we hope that with our productions we do all the hard work so that the audience don’t have to – if we really understand what we’re saying we are confident the audience will too.
We think if you don’t get Shakespeare then you just haven’t seen a production that really makes it accessible, all the topics are still relevant: love, war, humanity and identity to name a few, well, a few from As You Like It.