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As You Like It

"Shakespeare and music go hand in hand"

Too often, music in Shakespeare can be treated as an afterthought. Actor-composer Alec Steedman is making it central to the experience.

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Category: Theatre
Company: Sport for Jove
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As You Like It: Music to your ears

Date: 7 Dec 2021

In the opening scenes of Twelfth Night, Duke Orsino declares, “If music be the food of love, play on.”

A line from my first professional theatre experience that has stuck with me to this day. Shakespeare and music go hand in hand, and it’s been a privilege to be able to explore his repertoire throughout my career. So when Sport For Jove approached me to compose for what is one of my favourite Shakespeare plays, As You Like It, I jumped at the opportunity.

Like many, my journey towards composing began with performing.

After studying a bachelor of musical theatre at the Victorian College of the Arts, I was very lucky to be given the opportunity to make my main stage debut in Melbourne Theatre Company’s Twelfth Night in 2018, where I worked alongside the incredible Kate Miller-Heidke to bring her music to life on the show.

Since then, I’ve had a real passion for musical work in Shakespeare, performing with Pop Up Globe, musically directing for Melbourne Shakespeare Company, and composing for companies including Artefact Theatre Co. and now Sport For Jove.

I’ve long admired the work of Sport For Jove, and this experience has only compounded my stellar opinion of them. They are innovative, exciting and willing to take new risks with plays that have stood the test of time as pillars of literary ingenuity.

Often in Shakespeare, the music can be treated as an afterthought, throwing in a few songs on a guitar to break up the scenes and complex verse for the audience. Being given the opportunity to explore a truly complex musical language throughout this season has been a blessing.

With five original pieces crossing musical styles from country ditties, to Irish jigs, guttural hunting chants and even a fully realised orchestral dance number, each musical moment in this show will take you on a different musical and emotional journey.

A huge pat on the back must be given to this extraordinarily talented cast of actors who dived into the music with gusto, travelling with me as I created, workshopped and experimented in the space. Many were teaching themselves completely new instruments and skills as we worked (we’ve managed to squeeze in about 20 different instruments) and some had never been part of a band before. Their bravery in undertaking this massive task is admirable and I’m very thankful for them.

It is a privilege to share this heartfelt, sincere and, of course, hilarious production of As You Like It, here on unceded Gadigal land, where music has been an intrinsic part of storytelling for generations.

As You Like It plays at Bella Vista Farm, Bella Vista, December 11-30, and Leura Everglades, January 8-23.

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