Dull In Denmark

 

Took another Stratford day-trip Wednesday to see Hamlet. First the good news – we had lunch at the re-located Features & were happy with the bright, spacious location. Same menu (on new a menu folder). Same staff. Best part, the washrooms are no longer down a slippery flight of rickety stairs into a dark low-ceilinged basement.

Now for the bad news, something was dull in the state of Denmark & it is hard to know where to begin. Perhaps it was the long pandemic delay that gave them too much time to simmer this production – a simmer that turned it into flavourless Hamlet.

The opening was promising with funeral organ music & the dead king in a glass coffin already on stage. Guards were contemporized into a dark suited security detail – earplug communicators etc. The ghost work was nicely handled. But after Hamlet ‘swears,’ I got sleepy & missed some things, including the To Be soliloquy. A sure sign of how dull the performances & staging where. I perked up when the travelling players finally arrived. 

from a past production

Overall it was, to me, an uninspired production, though the staging had some good elements. The use of the balcony mirrors & projections was interesting, as was hidden body mic on Ophelia. The costumes were street wear – as if the cast had arrived late & rushed on stage without changing out of their street clothes. I can’t even remember what Hamlet wore. Costumes should help define the characters & so everyone here was defined as nobodies. Laertes in sweatpants? How regal.

from a past production

Amaka Umeh in the lead works hard, saws the air at every possible moment but never found a character. The King lacked any sense of threat. Ophelia lacked wispiness & seemed more peeved than heart-broken. None of the principles felt that invested in their characters, none of them seemed to be enjoying being on stage.

In the end we were left with a dull silence.

Hey! You can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & see more shows
sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

Stratford the People’s Choice

the Patterson gardens will look great in five years

Earlier this week, Tuesday, May 17 we took our first day trip to see Richard III at the Stratford Festival. As usual we left a little after 9 with the first stop to for gas (before the prices went up again). While pumping gas the attendant pointed out that we had a flat tire! Luckily for us my partner is a ‘regular’ at this full-service station & they were able to get the tire fixed quickly. We ended up about 20 minutes behind schedule. 

looking out on the clouds

The sunny day was perfect driving weather. Traffic on the 401 wasn’t too bad – building more highways creates more traffic not less congestion. No major construction slowdowns either. At Cambridge we stopped at a Tims for a pee break & coffee. Continued on the scenic New Dundee Road, through New Dundee, Haysville – a stop in Shakespeare for pies & finally Stratford.

utilitarian ceiling

The next unexpected wrinkle was that our favourite lunch spot, Features, was closed! Windows papered over, signs gone 😦 On to Bentley’s, our other fav spot. I asked our server there about Features & the diner has moved & recently reopened. Whew. Lost time meant we went directly to the new Tom Patterson Theatre, which on May 12 was the recipient of the 2022 People’s Choice Award from the Ontario Association of Architects (OAA).

utilitarian lounge

Over the past years we have watched the transformation from tear down, to levelling & then construction of the new facility. The building is inviting but, to me, lacks drama 🙂 Interesting use of materials, the ripple shape of the entrance creates a sense of flow. Perhaps seeing it on a rather overcast, cool afternoon diminished it pizzazz. 

reproduction of robe from 1953 production of Richard III

The interior is modest &, at this point, lacks character with its metal, stonework, & wood finishes. Nothing ornate about it. It felt like an upscale high-school facility. I was hoping for some chandeliers or wall-sconce lighting ornamentation.  

The performance space had the new car smell 🙂 The seats were plush & comfortable. The spacing was not as cramped as the old theatre which made watching more pleasant. All the drama was on the stage where it belongs.

Hey! You can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee
sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

Richard III

 

They wouldn’t let me try it on 😦

We were eager to this Festival production of Richard III at the new Tom Patterson Theatre. A fitting choice as Richard was one of the productions featured in the first season of Stratford in 1953. It starred Alec Guinness as Richard. I thoroughly enjoyed the preview production of Ricard iii I saw earlier this week. All I know of Richard is the myth that Shakespeare’s play solidified. A myth that centres around the death of the princes in the tower. From the play one gets the idea that the years of his reign were spent solely in conflict about his right to rule while denying any knowledge off what happed to the princes.

Director Antoni Cimolino has given this  production has an amazing opening scene that gives Richard a stunning entrance. Inventive & intuitive it took my breath away. You’ll have to see it for yourself as I’m not giving it away here. Unfortunately his first monologue ‘Now is the winter’ was marred by a cell phone ringing :-(. 

I wonder that this isn’t considered one of  Shakespeare’s problem plays with the endless assortment of characters – so many one really needs a cheat sheet app to keep track of who is whose sister, wife, window, mother, grandmother, which lord is on which side. At least in this production the women were dressed differently enough one could tell them apart, but the lords & underlings wore such similarly styled & dull colour clothes & hair they were interchangeable. 

Colm Feore is excellent as the sly, manipulative Richard; André Sills is a formidable Buckingham (how long before he does Falstaff?). Lucy Peacock as Elizabeth steals every scene she is in, even with Feore. Her scene with Seana McKenna (Margaret),

 Diana Leblanc (Duchess of something) is a stand out as each truest out-do the other in their hatred of Richard. Another great scene was Richard’s ‘seduction’ of Lady Anne (Jessica B. Hill) was a fine example of gaslighting & victim-blaming ‘it’s your fault I killed your husband – you are so beautiful I had no choice’ 

The finale was puzzling as the cast morphed into modern dress for a funeral. I’m not sure who the funeral was for: Richard? A dynamic production I’d recommend to anyone, even more so to anyone who knows the historical context & can tell a mother from a daughter.

I did try this one on
Hey! You can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee
sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

Recap April 2022

The TOpoet.ca following blog grew with over 600 people get notification whenever I post a new blog! The WP map does show my hits have come from  countries around the world. The USA tops the world list is interest but that Mauritius (Bonjour abonnés mauriciens) & Ghana are in the top 10 is a surprise. As you can see by the top 10 posts That’s Not Funny (https://topoet.ca/2022/04/26/thats-not-funny/) tops the list. F**k Cancer is a post from 10 years that made a trip to the top 10! 

Picture Perfect: 114 sections, about 162,000 words posted so far with about 25,000 words left to be edited then posted. I also cut some 2000 words out this past week & figure there’ll be another 2000 to get chopped soon. So I could be done by the end of the summer.

Synchronicity often puts books together for me. Last month I finished Stephen Leacock’s London Travels eBook & next on that eBooks shelf was Sunlight & Shadow (1880) by John Bartholomew Gough (died 1886). He was a temperance orator! The book is his reflection on life in London as he brings his message & it is fascinating – & also a little sad as attitudes towards alcohol & poverty haven’t changed much since then. What is amazing is that his comments on being misrepresented by the press are still relevant, plus his ‘tips’ on speaking in public hold true for today as well.

Read ‘Johnny Would You Love Me If My Dick Were Bigger’ by Brontez Purnell – this is hilarious & highly recommended. Unfiltered Sedaris-like essays on the vagaries & vulgarities of gay male life. I laughed out loud often. Be prepared for explicit sex & language.

Enjoying Servant of the People – the eerily prophetic Volodymyr Zelensky series. The writing is fearless in its political attack, the performances are spot on, though as it turns out Zelensky wasn’t acting, merely rehearsing for the role of a lifetime. Here in Canada Vision has been showing it with English subtitles which I presume aren’t censored or mistranslating what is being said. 

I have been getting to one in-person recovery meeting a week. The return to meetings in Toronto has been slow even though the only requirement by meeting spaces is that we stayed masked. Like many I’m not comfortable with more than ten people in a large room, even when all are masked. A couple of the zoom meetings closed for their in person meeting but returned to zoom to run both. I think zoom recovery is here to stay.

Two visits to my dentist this month, so I’m not sure what my summer plans are after having that $$ turned into fillings. The other drain on my summer plans was a new TV, as the ‘old’ one was losing its plasma picture – it was like watching though a thin layer of smoke that was getting smokier by the week. We found it was impossible to find one without internet in its system 😦 Getting it set up was a maze of menus but once again we can enjoy full screen & amazing colour. 

After the winter of our discontent, coming up in May, a day trip to Stratford  to see Richard III. We will be driving regardless of this entreaty “A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse!”

Hey! You can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee & donuts

– sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

Stratford July 2021

With an upcoming day trip to Stratford to see Richard III here are some photos from a day trip there in July 2021 to get away. We didn’t see a show but booked tickets to see Three Tall Women in October. https://topoet.ca/2021/10/01/ah-yes-i-remember-it-well/

For recharging your car not your cellphone
safe from glory holes too
no pee peeking
wash your own hands
one of the outdoor stages
tarts at the Shakespeare Pie Shop
barn on the way home
rustic farm house
Hey! You can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy Stratford tickets, thanks? paypal.me/TOpoet

Let My People a-go-go

Watching  1956’s The Ten Commandments again. It has been decades since I last watched it from the beginning. I would catch glimpses when it would show up on TCM almost every other month. I had forgotten it was a comedy. 

Drowning in hysterical historical inaccuracies it’s hard to tell where to begin though the most obvious is the costumes – particularly for the women wearing fabrics & colours that never existed in the 1300 BCE time era – not that I’m expecting documentary realism but any means. Then there’s there architecture – grand halls with black marble floors that have never been excavated.

The use of language is laugh-out-loud funny, the delivery so leaden, the constant ‘Moses Moses’ – a name so nice everyone has to say it twice. Speaking of Moses Moses – Heston gives a performance that is so wooden I was surprised he didn’t burst into flame when he stood in front of the burning  bush. Brenner gives a regal performance as Rameses II as if this were The Moses Moses & I. Anne Baxter is the real star with her insinuating, sinuous work at Nefretiri. She nails Rameses balls to the floor with a glance. Good too is Edward G Robinson’s sly, cunning & manipulative Dathan.

I can’t not mention the dazzling colours made even more lurid in High Definition. The movie suffers in HD though – without the pebble screen to diffuse edges the fx & back screens are obvious. The parting of the Red Sea is still wonderful but I found the closing of it to be even more amazing. Not amazing was the bad aging makeup on Heston – the greying of his hair was more akin to a high school drama production than a Hollywood epic. His wooly white beard & head of hair at the end was distractingly fake.

I loved seeing this again. Epic myth making at its finest. Biblical scholarship at its most Technicolor.

Hey! You can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee
sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet