The Royal Shakespeare Company has cast its oldest-ever Rosalind in a “grey” reimagining of As You Like it, with the majority of the cast set to be over 70 years old.
Geraldine James, 72, will star as the heroine of the comedy, which is often presented as a tale of young love.
The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) has stated that the majority of the cast for its new production will be similarly over 70, in a version which will explore the theme of “love in older age”.
The casting policy for the play will also provide an opportunity for elderly stars, who are yet to be announced as part of the production, to be included in the show without any jarring age imbalances between performers on stage.
Director Omar Elerian told the Telegraph: “In my discussions with the RSC about directing the play, I was really keen to explore it from a fresh and new perspective; I was also hoping to work with actors who had a huge experience, of both Shakespeare and life.
“Much as the play is traditionally associated with young love, I feel there’s something really powerful in rediscovering the themes of freedom and love from the perspective of older age. I’m therefore looking at casting the play almost exclusively with performers who are past the age of 70.”
‘A true privilege’
This will be a departure from the usual staging of the play as a tale of young love, in which Rosalind flees a scheming uncle to ultimately find love with Orlando.
The heroine has been played by, in their youth, actresses Dame Maggie Smith, Dame Vanessa Redgrave, Dame Helen Mirren, and Helena Bonham Carter.
The theme of old age with play a part in the new production of the play, set to open in June, with Mr Elerian explaining that it will “explore our relation to love, freedom, and the passing of time”, adding “to be able to draw on the talent, craft and experience of such exquisite performers such as Geraldine James is a true privilege”.
Further cast members are yet to be announced, but it is understood that the eventual over-70s ensemble will include prominent figures with a long-running association with the RSC. They will take to the stage on a set intended to look like a “simple rehearsal room”.
Elerian said that the actors' ages will be “forgotten throughout the production”, which will aim to provide an “evasion from the relentlessness of our daily lives” and a “communal ‘compassion’ for our shared humanity”.
His new production of As You Like It runs in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon- Avon from June 17 to August 5.