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Love Prevails In Shakespeare Set in NZ

10 May 2001

Media Release – For Immediate Use

Love Prevails In Shakespeare Set in NZ

A wrestling match, a flight into a fantastical forest, indigenous flora and fauna,
a boy who’s really a girl, a fool and four sets of lovers….
When Rosalind, like her father, incurs the wrath of Duke Frederick she too is
banished to the forest. She goes in disguise as a boy.
Thus begins an unparalleled pastoral comedy of mismatches and deception
– resolved, of course, in time for curtain fall.

Shakespeare’s most delightful comedy, As You Like It returns to Downstage after 28 years. It opened Downstage’s home, the Hannah Playhouse, in 1973. Downstage director Murray Lynch says, “this is one of my favourite Shakespeare’s, it’s lyrical and playful and we plan to have a lot of fun with it”.

Set in New Zealand in the 19th Century, the design team includes award-winning designers from Downstage’s Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead [Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards 2000], Andrew Thomas [set] and Lisa Maule [lights]. Costume design is by Jane Woodhall. The design is described as Lewis Carroll-meets-colonial-NZ, and it will be their job to create it and transport you to the fantastical bush-clad ‘forest of Arden’.

As You Like It features a strong cast of 15 including Jonathon Hendry, Nikki MacDonnell, Kelson Henderson, Phil Grieves and Matt Wilson, all of whom were involved with the most recent Downstage production Waterloo Sunset. The cast also includes Peter Hambleton - Best Supporting Actor for his role as The Player in Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead and Kirstie O’Sullivan (Secret Bridesmaids’ Business) plays one of Shakespeare’s most sought-after female roles, Rosalind.

Wellington audiences may recognise Peter Hambleton and Jonathon Hendry as directors of the last two Victoria University Summer Shakespeare’s, Cymbeline [2001], and Love’s Labour’s Lost [2000], respectively.

As You Like It Shakespeare UK 1599
presented by ASB BANK
May 25 – June 30 2001
Mon/Tues 6.30pm Wed – Sat 8pm
Forum and Show Monday May 28 at 6.30pm Matinee Saturday June 9 at 2pm
Tickets from $15 Bookings phone 04 801 6946 or via

For more information contact:
Kate Walker [Publicist] 04 473 0217 / 025 236 7288 or
Nicky Nicolaou [Marketing Manager] 04 802 6395 or
As You Like It William Shakespeare c. 1599
presented by ASB BANK

A wrestling match, a flight into a fantastical forest, indigenous flora and fauna,
a boy who's really a girl, a fool and four sets of lovers….
When Rosalind, like her father, incurs the wrath of Duke Frederick she too is
banished to the forest. She goes in disguise as a boy.
Thus begins an unparalleled pastoral comedy of mismatches and deception
-resolved, of course, in time for curtain fall.

directed by Murray Lynch
set design by Andrew Thomas
costume design by Jane Woodhall
lighting design by Lisa Maule

music director Laughton Pattrick
fight choreography Simone Lourie
dance Wendy Wallace

Kirstie O'Sullivan, Jonathon Hendry, Peter Hambleton, Phil Grieve, Matt Wilson, Nigel Collins, Anna McPhail, Kelson Henderson, Nikki MacDonnell, Tina Cook, Nick Blake, Brian Hotter, Aaron Alexander, Matthew Saville, Cohen Holloway.

May 25 – June 30 2001
Mon/Tues 6.30pm
Wed – Sat 8pm
forum and show Monday May 28 at 6.30pm
matinee Saturday June 9 at 2pm
tickets from $15 - $35
bookings phone 04 801 6946 or via

For more information contact:
Kate Walker [Publicist] 04 473 0217 / 025 236 7288 or
Nicky Nicolaou [Marketing Manager] 04 802 6395 or

As You Like It is known as one of Shakespeare's 'happy' comedies. It is suspected that it was written in 1599, with the first recorded performance in late 1600.

As You Like It is well known for the character of Rosalind, one of the most sought after female roles of Shakespeare's repertoire. With 747 lines, Rosalind has twice as many as any other character in the play and is on par with great Shakespearean figures such as Macbeth.

As You Like It was the play that opened the Hannah Playhouse in 1973, which houses Downstage. Artistic director at the time, Sunny Amey says about the forth coming production, “As You Like It is a wonderful Shakespeare that is not done very often. Setting it in NZ during the 1800s is very interesting and innovative". Current director Murray Lynch agrees. This will be Murray's first time directing As You Like It. He sees Shakespeare as the greatest theatrical storyteller, whose plays illustrate issues that are universal and timeless.

The play celebrates the ideal of love's order and of social disorder. It looks at friendship, family and romantic love. It also examines the differences between court and forest, city and country, and the effects of money and the material world. The Forest of Arden is a type of Utopia, where all things are equal and love prevails. It is also a play of deception, as many of the characters are in disguise, and are not who they seem.

Approximate running time 2hrs 15min + interval

Ticket prices $25 balcony / matinee / forum
$35 premium
$30 concession
$15 student stand-by [available ½ hr prior to performance]


Director Murray Lynch and the design team comprising Andrew Thomas [set], Lisa Maule [lighting] and Jane Woodhall [costume], have chosen to set the play in colonial New Zealand, around the 1860s. A kind of Lewis Carroll meets colonial New Zealand. The set is fantastical, while the costumes are more naturalistic.

Jane Woodhall explains that the challenge in costuming was how to show the different settings of the 'court' and 'forest' scenes. In the 1860s a process using aniline dyes (based on coal tar) had been discovered. Aniline dyes were man-made, rather than natural and it was suddenly possible to create extremely brilliant colours – which became the height of fashion. Use of this colour is the best way to show the hard, moneyed world of the court, while for the forest, more natural colours and textures are used.

As You Like It set designer Andrew Thomas has created a playground for the actors. There are different levels for them work on, things to swing from, climb on and so forth. " I wanted to create a strange yet wonderful world…", Thomas explains. The set is very stylised and surreal and compliment the costumes wonderfully.


The forum nights started this year with The Wedding Party, and are proving extremely popular among those who wish to delve into the intricacies of a production. Audience members can get the low down from the director, actors and designers of the show.

The As You Like It forum will be held on Monday 28 May following the 6.30pm performance.
Tickets to the show and forum are only $25. Food and beverages will be available to purchase.

Murray Lynch is director of Downstage Theatre. He has worked at nearly every major professional theatre in the country, in a career spanning three decades. Beginning his career at Four Seasons Theatre in Wanganui, Murray later became artistic director of Centrepoint Theatre in Palmerston North, followed by a stint at Auckland's now defunct Theatre Corporate. His productions there included Alan Ayckbourn's Absurd Person Singular, Dario Fo's Accidental Death Of An Anarchist, and the New Zealand premier of Harvey Fierstein's Torch Song Trilogy. After being artistic director of the Maidment Art Centre in Auckland, Murray went on to form 'Spare Parts Theatre' and the 'Tantrum Theatre Company', both in Auckland.

Murray moved to Wellington in 1989 and became associate director of Downstage Theatre, moving to Toi Whakaari : NZ Drama School to tutor and finally head the acting programme, a position held until his appointment as director of Downstage Theatre. His productions there included A Midsummer Night's Dream, Vinegar Tom, The Threepenny Opera, Burn This and The Tempest. Murray also spent some of this time as a freelance director, with productions including The Comedy of Errors, Blue Remembered Hills, Twelfth Night and The Vampyre Dances all at Circa Theatre, Waiora [1996 NZ International Festival of the Arts], and Irirangi Bay [Taki Rua]. In 1991 Murray was voted best director by Wellington critics for his Downstage production of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew.

As well as being director of Downstage Theatre, Murray has written and directed Blue Smoke [2000 NZ Festival of the Arts] and directed Tonite Let's All Make Love In London [Downstage 2000].


Andrew began his career as a freelance set designer at Downstage Theatre under the guidance of Raymond Boyce in 1986. His first professional design was for Warwick Broadhead's now infamous Downstage production of The Tempest, which was critically acclaimed as the best production design in 1986.

From brilliant beginnings, Andrew went on to design numerous theatre, film, ballet and opera productions, including the acclaimed Jerusalem [dir. Michael Parmenter], which toured nationally in 1999. His design for the opera Alley [New Zealand Festival 1998] was exhibited at the Prague Quadrennial Theatre Design Exhibition [1999] where he won the Unesco Arts prize for Artistic excellence in the design of opera.

Recent theatre productions include Blue Smoke [NZ Festival 2000], Art [Circa 2000], Double Beat [Downstage 2000], Secret Bridesmaids Business [Downstage 2000] and The Memory of Water [Circa 2000].

As well as As You Like It, Andrew is currently working on another Downstage production, Roger Hall's Middle Age Spread [dir. Stephen Ray], which runs in July 2001. He is also currently designing exhibitions for Te Papa, and a theatre production directed by Miranda Harcourt for the NZ Festival in 2002. Andrew also composes music for film and is composing for a new work by choreographer Eric Languet to be premiered in France in 2002.

Andrew has twice won the Chapman Tripp Award for Set Designer of the Year, both for Downstage productions, in 1999 for Much Ado About Nothing and 2000 for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.


Lisa has two bachelor degrees from Victoria University of Wellington, one with a major in Art History and the other Interior Design. She has been working as a lighting designer for 10 years. Lisa has twice won the Chapman Tripp Theatre Award for Lighting Designer of the Year, last year for Haruru Mai [NZ Festival], and in 1998 for Home Fires [NZ Festival].

Previous shows at Downstage include; The Unforgiven Harvest [Shebang Festival, 2000]; Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead [2000] and Waterloo Sunset [2001].


Jane has a strong history of dressmaking and keen interest in period costume, making her role as costume designer for the colonial-set As You Like It appropriate.

Jane's background is in ballet and opera, having been wardrobe supervisor for the New Zealand Ballet and Opera Trust in the 1970s, and later for the Royal New Zealand Ballet. Involvement in theatre productions include; Hedda Gabler [Downstage], A Doll's House [Circa] and last year alongside designer Nicole Cosgrove for Rutherford [Circa].

More recently Jane has been heavily involved in manufacturing costumes and as a wardrobe mentor at Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School.


Kirstie graduated from Toi Whakaari : NZ Drama school in 1999. Since graduating Kirstie splits her time between Wellington and Auckland, where she grew up.

Kirstie takes on one of Shakespeare's most sought after and demanding roles, when playing Rosalind in As You Like It. Previous Downstage productions have included the lead roles of Cathy Gannaway in Tonight Lets All Make Love in London [2000] and Meg in Secret Bridesmaids Business [2000]. Other productions have included Lynda Chanwai Earle's Box/Role/Dream [BATS 2000] and Paul Jenden's Nickle Nackle Tree [Maidment 2000].

Kirstie has also appeared on Xena Warrior Princess numerous times, in the short films Needles and Glass [dir. Miranda Harcourt and Rawiri Paratene] and The Big Game [dir. Ian Mune], and the 1992 feature film Alex.


Jonathon graduated from Toi Whakaari : NZ Drama School in 1988. His acting career includes over 25 professional productions at Downstage, Circa, BATS and Taki Rua, and numerous TV and Film appearances.

His Shakespearean career includes; MacBeth in MacBeth [Centrepoint Theatre]; Horatio in Hamlet [Watershed]; Malvolio in Twelfth Night [Bats Theatre]; Richard in Richard III [1992 International Festival]; Antipholus of Syracuse / Antipholus of Ephesus in Comedy of Errors [Circa 1992]. This will be the first time Jonathon has worked with Murray Lynch since the critically acclaimed production Comedy of Errors, which Murray directed.

Jonathon has worked with Circa Theatre many times over the last 10 years including Lenin in Travesties, Coops in Boys at the Beach, Louis in Design for Living, Shannon in Poor Superman, Louis in Angels in America, Bernie in Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love, Tom in The Glass Menagerie and Will in Blue Remembered Hills.

He has turned to directing recently. Since July 1999 Jonathon has directed Laughing Wild [Bats Theatre], The Pitchfork Disney [Bats Theatre], Awesome Foursome [Bats], Closer [Centrepoint], Jo Randerson's The Unforgiven Harvest [Shebang Festival] and Love's Labours Lost [VUW Summer Shakespeare 2000]. Since 1998 Jonathan has applied his skills to freelance theatre teaching and has taught numerous theatre related subjects at Toi Whakaari, Victoria University, Wellington Performing Arts School, Wellington Conservatorium of Music and at the Massey University School of Theatre Design.

Jonathan is often seen on New Zealand television in both acting and commercial roles and is possibly best recognised as Bob, the adorable pariah in last year's IRD advertisements. Jonathon starred in the feature film, The Irrefutable Truth About Demons, released last month. Later this year Jonathon will replace Tim Balme as Oberon in the re-launch of A Mid-summer Night's Dream by the NZ Actors' Company. Twice nominated as actor of the year Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards in 1992 and 1995 he was winner of Best Actor in a Supporting Role Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards in 1994.


Matt had never set foot in the North Island until he was recalled for an audition at Toi Whakaari : NZ Drama School. He graduated in 1999. Matt made his professional debut at Downstage last year as Phelim in Tonite Let's All Make Love In London. Other roles at Downstage have included The nephew in Jo Randerson's The Unforgiven Harvest [Shebang Festival, 2000], Bill/Howard in The Wedding Party [2001] and Stormboy in Waterloo Sunset [2001].

Whilst studying, his roles included Reverend Parris in The Crucible, John in Oleanna, Kimball Smith in The Threepenny Opera, Slim in Cowboy Mouth, Burton in Burn This and Vershinin in 3 Sisters. Screen credits include The Big Game, The Lord Of The Rings and Clare.


As You Like It will be Peter's 17th production at Downstage. Recent Downstage productions include Cat On a Hot Tin Roof [2000], the Player in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead [2000], for which he won a Chapman Tripp Award for Best Supporting Actor.

A graduate of Toi Whakaari, Peter has played numerous roles for professional theatre, the majority in Wellington. Peter also worked as an advertising copywriter for five years from 1986 – 91. He has recently turned his hand to directing with recent credits including VUW 2001 Summer Shakespeare Cymbeline and Marathon [Circa Studio, 2001].

Shakespearean productions include Dogberry in Much Ado about Nothing [Downstage 1999], Hamlet [Circa 1996], Twelfth Night [Circa 1995], Comedy Of Errors [Circa 1992] and Romeo and Juliet [Downstage 1986].


Phil has been a professional actor for 13 years. Hailing from Southland, Phil studied theatre at Otago University and went on to debut at the Fortune Theatre, appearing there in thirteen productions, most notably The New Zealander, The Boys Next Door, The Gambler, Pack Of Girls, as Doug in Cosi and Gavin in Ladies' Night 2: Raging On.

He moved to Wellington in 1995 and has worked most significantly with Colin McColl in his productions of Whaea Kairau [Taki Rua Productions], The Visit [Downstage Theatre] and Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead [Downstage Theatre]. Phil's repertoire of characters includes the Marquis de Sade in Sodom [Bats Theatre/STAB], Potts in Mojo [Circa Theatre], Dromio in The Comedy Of Errors [Attic Theatre], a cat and a snail in Dirty Weekends [Circa Theatre], Terre in Jamaica [Bats Theatre], Brabantio in Othello [The Bachanaals] and most recently as a dog in The Musicians Of Bremen [Capital E]. Phil has also spent much of the last year in a featured role in The Lord Of The Rings. He was most recently in The Wedding Party, and Waterloo Sunset, both at Downstage.


Anna graduated from Toi Whakaari in 1994. Since then she has worked extensively in theatre, television and radio. Her roles have included Olivia in Twelfth Night [Circa], Chantelle in Trash [BATS], Julie in Boys At The Beach [Court Theatre], Molly in The God Boy [Court Theatre] and Mary in Rutherford [NZ Festival of the Arts 2000]. Screen credits include the 1997 and 1998 series of McPhail and Gadsby and a featured role on Greenstone.

Anna won the Bravado Accolade for Outstanding performance in 1998 for her performance as the six year old Lizzie Gael in Wolf Lullaby [Circa theatre]. Anna last appeared at Downstage in The Wedding Party [2001] and Secret Bridesmaids' Business [2000].


Nga Puhi. Tina has been involved with Theatre for over 15 years. She joined touring Maori theatre company Te Ohu Whakaari in 1985 and has performed in many educational institutions, maraes and at the Sydney Opera House.

Her work with He Oriori mo te Tamariki [children's storytelling] at the Aotea Centre led to an invitation to the International story fiesta in New Mexico, USA. In 1996 Tina toured Canada He Ara Hou's production of Waitapu. Tina played the role of Sue in Waiora [NZ Festival of the Arts 1996 and touring production].

Tina has also directed numerous plays including He Repo Haka – Swamp Dancing [Centrepoint Theatre], co-directed Nga Pou Wahine with Nancy Brunning, and more recently directed Paradise [Circa 2001], for Taki Rua Productions.


Nick holds a Diploma of Fine Arts in Stage Design, has spent two years at the National Circus School in Paris and has studied mask making in Bali. As co-director of Dramadillo Theatre Company, he performed at festivals in Australia, Canada and Edinburgh. Nick has worked for Court theatre, Tantrum Theatre, NZ Puppet Theatre, Maidment Arts Centre and in both 1983 and 1988 won the Mobil Radio Play of the Year.

Nick was last seen in The Wedding Party [Downstage 2001], where he made his first stage appearance in 10 years. Previous to that, he spent the 1990s designing and making whirligigs for his shop in Martinborough.


Kelson graduated from Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School in 1997. Since 1998 Kelson has worked extensively in theatre in both Wellington and Auckland.

Recent roles at Downstage have included 11 yr old Eileen in The Wedding Party and Oik in Waterloo Sunset [both 2001]. Shakespearean roles include Lucius in Julius Caesar [Auckland Theatre Company] and in Michael Hurst's Hamlet at the Watershed Theatre.

Whilst studying Kelson's roles included Jack in The Importance Of Being Earnest, Freddy in Pygmalion and Cracker in Insurrection: Holding History. Recent professional productions include The Abbatoir [Bats Theatre/Under Lili's Balcony], Ray in The Beauty Queen Of Leenane [Circa Theatre], the title role in Rutherford [Circa Theatre 2000], Station in F'All [Bats Theatre] and Andrew in Serial Killers [Circa Theatre 2000].

Screen credits include Wank in The Irrefutable Truth About Demons, Dark Knight, Jackson's Wharf, Shortland Street, Riding High, Hercules, True Life Stories, Young Hercules and The Tribe.


A highly experienced singer and dancer Nikki graduated from Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School in December 2000 and made her professional debut at Downstage as Julie Ann in The Wedding Party earlier this year. Nikki also appeared at Downstage as Kat in the recent production of Waterloo Sunset.

Whilst studying her roles included Lin in Cloud 9, Bridget in Daughters Of Heaven, Abbie in Desire Under The Elms, Echo in The Love Of The Nightingale, Liza in Bondagers; Louise in Faultline, Title role in Mr. Whatnot and Little Red Riding Hood in Into The Woods. Nikki's Shakespearean roles have included Portia in The Merchant Of Venice and Trinculo in The Tempest.


Born and bred in the Hawke's Bay, Nigel graduated from Toi Whakaari : NZ Drama School in 1999. Nigel initially trained as a musician and singer at Victoria University's School of Music and then traveled to Europe in the early 1990s. It was here all aspirations of becoming an opera star were thwarted when he received the opportunity to perform in the 1994 Edinburgh Fringe. Soon after Nigel returned to NZ to pursue acting.

Theatre credits include MacBeth [Centrepoint Theatre], Much Ado About Nothing [Downstage 1999], Jimmy O'Sullivan in The God Boy [Centrepoint Theatre 2000], and in the 2001Taranaki Arts Festival season of Blue Smoke. Nigel has also appeared on Clare, Dark Knight, and soon to be released The Lord Of The Rings.


Brian was born in Lower Hutt and raised in Wainuiomata. Currently in his third year at Toi Whaakari : NZ Drama School, Brian is on secondment as part of the final year course.

While at Toi Whakaari he has appeared in Mystery Cycles and Lovelocks Dream Run. Previous to Drama school, Brian was in the VUW Summer Shakespeare King John, and three Young and Hungry plays; Strange Brew [writ. Jean Betts], Second Sight [writ. Sarah Delahunty] and Briar Grace-Smith's Don't Call Me Bro.


Matthew is also in his third year at Toi Whakaari, and on secondment. Born in South Africa, Matthew is also interested in writing, and in 1999 was runner-up in the NZ Young Playwrights competition.

Matthew's theatre credits include roles in Lovelock's Dream Run, Mysteries and Girls Night Out. Past Shakespearean performances include King Lear, As You Like It and The Taming Of The Shrew.


Aaron joins As You Like It as part of the third year secondment programme at Toi Whakaari : NZ Drama School. Productions there include Lovelock's Dream Run and Mysteries.

An experienced stilt performer, Aaron has performed at various street parades, events and festivals over the last 5 years.


Cohen is a third year student at Toi Whakaari : NZ Drama School. Having performed in drama school productions Mysteries and Lovelock's Dream Run, Cohen looks forward to the challenges of As You Like It.

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