ROSALIND in As You Like It is widely considered one of Shakespeare’s best and most rounded parts for women.
But for Dorothea Myer-Bennett the thought of taking it on for the first time was a little daunting.
“I’d seen it a few times in theatres and films and BBC series but I found it a bit confusing. I never really understood what Rosalind was doing and why she did what she did.”
“I knew it was supposed to be one of the great parts for women to play, but I don’t think I completely understood it until we started rehearsing.”
But once rehearsals started for the Tobacco Factory tour that comes to Salisbury Playhouse next week, all became clear.
“She puts Orlando through a series of challenges to make him prove his love for her but it’s as much that she fears for herself and what love will do to her.
“Love makes her vulnerable and she loses control rather than taking it. I think it’s something all of us go through when we fall in love – something inside you changes and it changes your perception of everything.
“She’s just as relevant now as when she was written. It’s a timeless story of love.”
In typical Shakespeare comic fashion, there’s confusion, mistaken identity and cross-dressing as Rosalind dons a disguise and flees persecution with her cousin and a court jester to find safety – and maybe love – in the Forest of Arden.
“It’s a roller coaster,” says Myer- Bennett. “You’ve just got to go with it!”
Myer-Bennett, 32, had her heart set on being an actor since she was spotted at a birthday party and put in a play when she was five years old.
“I was lucky,” she says. “I didn’t have to go through the difficulties that some young people have when trying to decide what they want to do, because I always knew.
“There was one moment not long after drama school when I was in the street dressed as a bumble bee because I needed to pay the rent when I thought ‘what on earth am I doing?’ but I love it.”
The last time Myer-Bennett was on the Playhouse stage was as Goody in Roger Spottiswoode’s adaptation of William Golding’s The Spire, about the building of Salisbury Cathedral, and she’s looking forward to coming back.
“There’s such a warm and welcoming audience. When I’ve been to see plays there, the reception has been lovely, and I hope we can continue that.”
As You Like It contains one of Shakespeare’s best known monologues: “All the world’s a stage...”
comparing life to a play and humanity to actors playing a role, and it’s the realism and modernity of its emotional output that Myer- Bennett feels is one of the play’s most attractive qualities.
“If you have any interest in the human capacity to love and to fear and the humour that can cause then you should watch it – and everyone is interested in that!”
* Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory was launched in 1999, and has an established national reputation for some of the most vivid and compelling stagings of Shakespeare in the country.
Audiences can find out more about the play and production at the free post-show discussion on Tuesday, June 17 or at a Theatre Day on Thursday, June 19 at 11am.
As You Like It runs at Salisbury Playhouse from June 17 to 21.
Tickets and information on 01722 320333 or at salisburyplayhouse.com.