Interview: David Sturzaker

This month will see one of Shakespeare’s funniest plays, ‘As You Like It’, take centre stage at Kingston’s Rose Theatre. David Sturzaker has taken on the lead role of Orlando, who has fallen madly in love with the beautiful Rosalind. Their courtship takes on an exciting and amusing twist after they are they are forced to seek refuge in the mystical forest of Arden when they are banished from the royal court.

Fresh from his role as Dr Bond on BBC daytime soap ‘Doctors’, Sturzaker is clearly enjoying rehearsals for the play, his part in which marks a return to the theatre, and in particular to Shakespearean works.

“I want to do a variety of roles, but right now this is exactly what I want to be doing. I was keen to be doing a Shakespearean play after a four-year break – up until 2006 I was pretty much speaking verse non-stop! After I finished Doctors I wanted to return to the theatre, but I wouldn’t say it’s been a conscious decision to do Shakespeare again.”

The actor, who trained at LAMDA, has already appeared in nine Shakespearean plays and is keen that everyone should enjoy them.

“If people are reluctant to come and see Shakespeare because they don’t think there will be anything for them, or they might not “get it”, I really don’t think that would actually be the case. Two of the themes of the play are love and familial relationships, there’s something there that everyone can relate to. It’s about people. We don’t want to put Shakespeare on a pedestal because it really can be accessible if you just take that first step.

“As with a lot of Shakespeare, the themes within the play are universal, they transcend all class. That probably sounds clichéd, but it doesn’t make it any less true.”

The character of Orlando is famed for his love of love and his devotion to Rosalind. So how much of his own experiences has he drawn on in creating his own version of the love-sick hero?

“We’re trying not to go down a clichéd route, we’re trying to find a specific kind of love. Obviously it’s specific to Orlando and it’s specific to me playing Orlando. Someone else in the same production playing the character would bring something entirely different.

“It’s a discovery, these are thoughts I didn’t have before I came to rehearsals. But in the course of the last three weeks we’ve discovered that Orlando’s love is quite a painful one because he leaves the town to go to the forest, he doesn’t think he’s ever going to see Rosalind again. So even if his love is requited it’s requited from afar, so to all intents and purposes it’s like it’s unrequited, and that’s certainly something I can relate to.

“It’s a hankering for Rosalind that Orlando feels, and that can take over your being. I’ve certainly been in love where I’ve slightly lost the sense of myself because of feelings genuine or otherwise. I’d like to keep a bit more a sense of identity if I fall in love in the future. It’s almost kind of destructive love.”

In the play, Rosalind must disguise herself and so adopts the guise of Ganymede, a young man. When Orlando and Rosalind meet in the forest of Arden she has already transformed herself and he does not recognise the woman he loves.

“We don’t always see things where we’re not expecting to see them. Rosalind is the last person Orlando expects to see running through the forest of Arden. He is almost blinded by his love for Rosalind.

“Orlando becomes slightly awed by Ganymede, he’s amazed by this young boy. It’s those qualities that are in Rosalind that are manifested in Ganymede so all the time he’s falling more in love with Rosalind, who feels like she wants to get to know Orlando more under the guise of Ganymede.”

Sturzaker is clearly very involved in the creative process of the play as a whole and he, along with the rest of the cast and the director, Stephen Unwin, are keen to keep the play in its original and traditional form.

“Putting a stamp on any Shakespeare play can always be a bit risky, because if you just take it as a raw product of the play it’s so full – there’s already so much to it. ‘As You Like It’ is a great product, it’s a great ingredient. You almost don’t want to add anything on it, you want to bring out the brilliance within it. If you try to lay things on top it, it often looks very obvious. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. In this case we’re trying to get as much of the life of the play as it is on paper out on the stage.

“The way Stephen’s working is very clear, we’re sort of just adding layers to the play each week, and we’ve added on more and more details as we’ve gone along. It’s a simple process, a good way of working.”

The cast of the play also includes ‘Hunters and Crocodiles’ actor Rod Arthur, and Adrian Lukis who starred in the film ‘7 Seconds’.

“In this business there are always connections, you all know friends of friends, and when you meet each other you all discover a load more connections and that your paths have crossed before.

“And we’re getting on so well. I’d love to tell you all sorts of dastardly intrigue, hiding each other’s scripts and spiking water bottles but in reality we’re all friends. When you’re rehearsing you get to know each other so quickly. It’s funny because in this job, as opposed to others, the currency we’re dealing with is emotions and therefore you do get to know each other so well – whether that’s superficial or genuine I don’t know. Within a couple of days we’re staring into each other’s eyes and telling each other we love them because that’s what the job is. That breaks down the barriers much more quickly than if we were just meeting round the water cooler.”

‘As You Like It’ is on at the Rose Theatre from February 18 until March 26. For more information check out their website

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