As You Like It (2004)
The Pantaloons originally formed at the University of Kent in 2004 to stage an all-male outdoor production of William Shakespeare’s As You Like It. Steve Purcell, a young and roguishly handsome MA student with a passion for Shakespeare and a flair for comedy, decided to direct and produce the play as a kind of companion piece to his masters degree. In the long hot summer of 2004 Steve would regularly disappear into the woods with eight other men, some dressed as girls, to rehearse the play in secret.
Disturbed only by the occasional dog-walker, the merry crew beavered away in the bushes all summer on the commedia dell’arte inspired piece, which featured white make-up, dirty overalls, grotesque masks, music and silly walks. Everything was coming along nicely but there was still one thing missing. The company needed a name.
“We need a name,” said Steve one rehearsal. “What do you guys think?” Nine blank faces stared back at Steve. Tumbleweed blew across the clearing. A squirrel fell dead from a nearby tree. “Something from the text maybe?” Still no reaction from the assembled actors. “How about the Lean and Slippered Pantaloons, taken from Jacques’ seven ages of man speech?”
There was a vociferous shrug of assent and it was settled. The company was the Lean and Slippered Pantaloons. And they went on and did a great show. It was so well received by the people of Canterbury that there was no question about it – they would stage another production the following year…
Shakespeare was never like this when I was at school - more's the pity!