Shakespeare act decided by coin toss
Two young actors are set to have their onstage characters decided by a coin toss.
Bronwyn Ensor and Murdoch Keane will learn and perform two characters in Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It, a play running as part of the annual Summer Shakespeare outdoor season by the University of Auckland Clocktower.
A coin will be thrown minutes before the performance to determine who will play Touchstone, a male jester, or Audrey, a country girl.
Keane, 18, said switching roles will help prevent their performances from becoming stale, something which can happen in comedy theatre.
‘‘Not knowing just keeps fresh’’ Keane said.
Ensor, 21, said having a different dynamic each night will keep the cast on their toes.
‘‘I think I was intrigued to rehearse a character alongside someone else playing the same character and to see the differences between our interpretations because I haven’t really done that in a proper way.’’
Keane said while the two characters get married, they are an unlikely pair - Audrey is very simple while Touchstone is ‘‘sardonic and derisive’’.
‘‘I guess it’s the contrast of the it two that makes them such an interesting thing to switch,’’ Keane said.
Switching the roles has prompted the pair and the plays’ director into discussions about gender.
‘‘Characters in Shakespeare I feel can be quite ambiguous, if they’re not the main ones that everyone has done a million times,’’ Ensor said.
Keane has played female roles on stage before and identifies as non-binary in his personal life.
This means he doesn’t exclusively connect with being either female or male.
‘‘I want to express myself and identify however I want without the kind of pressures of gender stereotypes.’’
As You Like It director Benjamin Henson said the play is brought into the modern context of England’s iconic Glastonbury music festival and will involve a live DJ.
‘‘Bringing it into the modern day allowed us to have a wider perspective of gender,’’ Henson said.
As You Like It runs beneath the University of Auckland clocktower from February 14 to March 11.