Belvoir has assembled a large and diverse cast to perform Shakespeare’s gender-bending romantic comedy As You Like It in the upstairs theatre this month.

Theatre veteran Bille Brown, singer Casey Donovan and rising TV star Ashley Zukerman will be among those on stage for the ramshackle tale of deceit and desire.

“We’re all learning a lot from each other, and each of our particular skills. I think it’s going to create a very rich group of bodies in the space,” Shelly Lauman, who plays Silvius, said.

Adding further confusion to the play’s traditional gender-bending, several cast members — Lauman included — will play characters of the opposite sex, as opposed to characters who are pretending to be of the opposite sex.

“It’s definitely challenging. I’m a female actress playing a man who’s in love with a woman who’s being played by a man.

“But [director Eamon Flack] is very playful to work with. He wants to see joy, so you feel like you can play around very openly and bravely.”

With the glut of Shakespeare performed on Sydney stages, does Lauman think it’s important to offer a fresh take when presenting one of the bard’s great works?

“It has to make sense for the world we’re living in now. I think you have to know why you’re putting it on in 2011 — but I think that’s true of any play.”

INFO: As You Like It, Belvoir, November 19 – December 24.

Photo: Heidrun Lohr

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