Don’t Skip The Miser


To commemorate Molière’s 400th birthday the Stratford Festival presented The Miser in a new modern version by Ranjit Bolt directed by Antoni Cimolino with Colm Feore as Harper, & Lucy Peacock as Fay (the matchmaker). 

Life imitated art at this production of The Miser on Tues Aug 16 – the house ambient sound was of a thunderstorm – when I exited the Festival Theatre after the show, there was a real thunderstorm. The show itself was excellent in this new adaptation of the Molière. It has been updated to today – full of texting & references to ghosting, memes, FBI raids & Toronto centric shops, Skip The Dishes delivery, the dismay of living in Scarborough.

The rather knotty plot of coincidence, misunderstandings & deliberate misinformation is well delineated – no one, but the characters, is confused by the various threads of subplots & withheld information. It also answers that burning question of what to do if your windowed father is determined to marry the girl he doesn’t know you want to marry.

One key to the play, that I didn’t fully recognize until after the performance, was the influence of Commedia dell’arte on Molière that echoed through this production with the older wealthy man, perky maid (or matchmaker), high-class hopeless lovers etc. Harper’s 2nd act lavender silk top & tails with bellbottoms quickly turn him into a Pierrot . You’ll have to see this excellent production to track down all the Commedia parallels.

The show moves quickly, the cast is energized by the wordplay of the text & Colm seems happy to step out of Richard III into someone lighter. Lucy Peacock relished the opportunity to wear slutty modern wear & her glittery heels deserved a bow of their own. An actress friend of mine once told me she didn’t really feel a character until she had the right shoes. Lucy had the right shoes for sure.

They text is amusing, has several laughs but it isn’t punchline laughter & makes fun of serious theatre, greed, & endlessly big reveal denouements of the ‘Luke I am your Father’ type. I also appreciated an ending in which the principle character doesn’t learn any important life lessons as he is reunited happily with the love of his life – a suitcase full of cash. Highly recommend.

Richard III

Dull In Denmark 

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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
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Ah yes, I remember it well

Three Tall Women

Actually walking into a theatre for the first time in two years was a big part of the excitement of seeing Edward Albee’s ‘Three Tall Women,” directed by Diana LeBlanc with Martha Henry, Lucy Peacock, Mamie Zwettler & Andrew Iles, in the intimate The Studio Theatre, presented in two parts on the same day – think of it as a 3 hour intermission.

act 1

I wondered what changes there might be in safety protocols in the week before we would go to the show. Not having a smart phone our big fear was that only an e.ticket app would be acceptable – no paper – technology reinforcing class status so that only those with the right data plans could access entertainment. 

Before we arrived I wondered if it would be like boarding at the airport after one had gone through all the pre-boarding. Well, there was no X-ray or luggage screening to deal with but we had to have all our documents in order – what’s the point of a photo i.d. if we’re wearing masks? Anyway there was no trouble getting into the theatre. Getting to our seats was a different matter – the steep incline had many people struggling up the stairs – this venue is definitely not for the mobility challenged. 

act 2

So almost two years to the day we finally saw a performance at the Stratford Festival. As usual the production values were high for Three Tall Women. Good theme music, utilitarian & practical set, costumes that supported characters rather than create them. Strong cast, unfussy direction that let the play speak for itself.

The plot? In Act 1 she remembers, she gets lost in memory, a legal assistant taxes her short-term memory, her person care worker tries to keep her focused. In Act 2 the three are one person – much like the holy trinity – they are faces of her at different points in her life. Andrew Iles does a cameo as the son. The conclusion is well – I’m not sure – the conclusion is very Zen, our happiest moment is when we reach the end. Are we happy that life is over?

I didn’t end up feeling a lot of sympathy for any of the three faces, Zwettler didn’t have enough text to work with, Peacock’s character was prone to placating – when Henry’s lapses into pro-racist language we are told she doesn’t really mean it (although written 1990, in 2021 people are still doing the same thing – ‘can’t you take a joke?’). Over all, I enjoyed the show but don’t feel the need to see another production.

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Paradise Staged

Before seeing the Festival production of Paradise Lost we stopped into the costume warehouse sale to see what was on sale but more to see what was stored there. It was day 2 of the sale & all the ‘good’ stuff had been sold in the first few hours of day 1. I did buy a shirt though just to say I have a piece of Festival history. 

There were plenty of fun cloaks, sequinned dresses & few props. I found out that there are regular tours of the warehouse so one will be planned for next season. I did get some fun photos though which was my real reason for going there.

Paradise Lost was excellent. I wasn’t sure how the endless, blank verse poem would be staged. Doing spoken word frequently I know the struggle there can be in lifting words of the page. Adapter Erin Shields, director Jackie Maxwell & Lucy Peacock (as Satan) did an amazing job at making the text engaging & often much funnier than I’m sure John Milton intended it to be.

Centre stage at the Studio Theatre is a pile of shirts (going from dark at the bottom to white at the top) reaching to the ceiling, around it are hung black shirts. Lights out & we hear the dark shirts drop to the stage: the fallen angels. As Satan Lucy Peacock commands the stage whenever she appears. The interaction between the ‘good’ host of angels reflects their pecking order.

The supporting cast was all good. I particularly liked Sarah Dodd as as sort of east coast slutty Sin & as Zephon, who was eager to perform as Satan in the play-within-a-play. Perhaps because he was mainly naked I did enjoy Qasim Khan as Adam. His comic timing was excellent. Both he & Amelia Sargisson, as Eve, played the naivety of their characters to perfection. 

The play-within-a-play mystery play telling of the war that lead to fall was hilarious & ti was clear the supporting cast was having great fun with it. The rhyming couples were a nice sonic break from the blank verse too. This is a brilliant piece of theatre that rivalled Coriolanus for theatricality without relying on tech-magic to do so.

The other shows I saw this season:

Long Day’s Journey Into Night: “a ghost haunting the past” 

Coriolanus: “My rage is gone” 

The King and I: “The King and My Memories”

Julius Caesar: “Honourable Women”

The Hound of the Baskervilles: “Entertainment Afoot”

The Tempest: “Brave Spirits Indeed”

Grand Hotel

Rocky Horror: “I Feel Sexy”

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Stratford Costume Warehouse pics:


“My rage is gone”

Thanks to director Robert Lepage the Stratford Festival’s production of Coriolanus is stunning from the first line of dialogue. The level of stage craft is constantly amazing as it supports & expands the plot. Considered one of Shakespeare’s lesser plays this re-imagining of it in modern times makes it perhaps one of his most prophetic plays. Imagine a ruler who feels offended when anyone questions his decisions.

The special effect projections (if that’s what they are called), sometimes as subtle as a curtain moving in the breeze or as dramatic as rain on a speeding car were executed with a precision I didn’t know was possible. The rain on the car, for example, was streaming across the car in the right direction & at the right speed as the car went faster. Oh yes, there was a real car on stage!

Scene transitions were smooth, the use of moving scrims, of moving sets, sliding frames had to have been done by the bank of laptop & desk top computers one saw on entering the theatre. All this tech did not detract from the emotional heart of the play but amplified its beat though news casts, talk-show, multi-view camera coverage &, of course, text & emojis.

The performances were excellent, as one would expect. Lucy Peacock as Mom stole every scene she was in; André Sills as our Hero was solid, energetic but rarely displayed the arrogance his character was credited with (or that one is used to seeing displayed by politicians); Festival stalwarts Tom McCamus, Stephen Ouimette, & Tom Rooney were sharp & clarly relished the characters they were playing. Graham Abbey as the opposing general was excellent & his closing lines “My rage is gone; And I am struck with sorrow” were emotionally delivered & resonant in a way that needed no stage craft. A must see production. 

My review of Long Day’s Journey Into Night: “a ghost haunting the past” 

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She Stoops To #sfConquer

I remember having to ‘study’ Stoops in high school but that’s the end of the memory. The title itself remained in my mind as we had many puns around it – She Poops to Concord – was one of them. So seeing the Stratford production was a revelation – first off no high school memories were brought back by it.


sunset pinks

This is an energetic, well-paced, production with an excellent ensemble cast lead by a hilarious Lucy Peacock, abetted by Sara Farb whose comic timing & screams were a … scream. This is a comedy of manners & situation (yes, it’s a sit-com from the 1700’s) as opposed to one of clever language.


out out damn swifter

Layers of misunderstanding, mistaken identity & missing jewels that verges on Feydeau farce – no doors were being slammed in this play. It’s one of those plots in which if the right word had been said at the first opportunity, or any opportunity for that matter, there wouldn’t have been plot at all.


Jimmeny Jesus

The revolving set was a delight – I’m sure it’s getting double use with Carousel on the same stage. I loved the spot lit cat awaiting the rise of the curtain, & the glittering jewel box illuminating all who looked into it was a delight. Several laugh-out-loud moments had the packed house roaring in unison didn’t allow for anyone to nod off 🙂

An excellent production & highly recommended. Next up, & my last Stratford show this season, will be The Alchemist next week. The line up for next year has been announced ( & I may have to move there for the summer to see everything I’d like to see.


thin ice of a new day

Check out my other Festival reviews: Love’s Labours Lost:; The Physicists #sfPericles – next up is #sfAlchemist.



shall I compare thee to a hand

severed from a corpse

an unidentified left hand

isolated insulated in ice

not yet murky with drifting pinks

lit from below by a cool blue

as blue as your eyes

when you concede

that even though you are right

you will never get your way

so this wild wound

will howl at the afternoon sun

fearful of losing its shadow

in the comfort of my affection


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November 1 – 30 Participating NaNoWriMo


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#sfStratagem (the beaux’)

One of the things I like about the Stratford Festival is their willingness & ability to stage period work by slightly, now, obscure playwrights. I’ve seen some wonderful productions that have pleasantly filled in my sense of the history of drama. It get easy to think Shakespeare or Racine were the only writers being performed in their time. But don’t ask me the difference between Restoration and Elizabethan drama.

purple purple toe stratagem

The Beaux’ Stratagem is a whole lot of fun regardless of its historical roots. Rollicking performances from Colm Feore, Lucy Peacock  and Martha Henry  held me from start to the all too soon finish. Mike Shara and Bethany Jillard were excellent & saucy as the almost star-crossed lovers. Gordon S. Millar as Scrub effortlessly stole every scene he had.

sky highway skyway from a moving car

George Farquhar plot explores, for me, the way people present one face to prospective partners while hiding the real, then become afraid to let down the false. Motived by avarice or lust or revenge each of the characters peeks out from behind their real self looking for something/someone more real. False expectations, in this play, fade when real expectations are revealed and gladly received. Human nature hasn’t changed much since 1705.

Witty dialogue, strong performances, and as always superb stage cract (constumes, lighting, sound) make this a very satisfying show I’d recommend to anyone.

accident oops – turn-off hold-up

The usually easy drive to Stratford was rocked by rain in the morning and then an over 90 min’s delay (starting at Guelph to Milton) returning, caused by a trailer akimbo two lanes at the highway 6 turn off. But the delays weren’t enough to dull the pleasure of the production.


August 28-31 – attending – FanExpo Canada


October 10-12 – Gratitude Roundup


October 19 – feature – Cabaret Noir – Pinebow pineoct


This is the start of a new series – each piece prompted by one of the Buddhist 108 worldly sins



if it doesn’t hurt

it doesn’t matter

there was no bruise

so why are you wingeing

I didn’t mean to

that was a tap

if I slapped you

you’d really feel it

can’t you take it

it won’t hurt for long

no one will see it

it won’t leave a scar

you had it coming

I didn’t mean to leave a mark

I didn’t hit you that hard

I didn’t mean to hit you that hard

I didn’t mean to hit you

it means I care

if I didn’t care

I wouldn’t hurt you

you mean so much to me

no one else can put their hands on you

you were asking for it

what else could I do

you had to be taught a lesson

you won’t forget it the next time

it hurts me as much as it hurts you

maybe more

it wasn’t that deep

you shouldn’t have moved

you should have said sorry

it’ll look fine in the morning

it won’t need stitches

you didn’t want to go out anyway

stop your snivelling

I’ll give you something

to really cry about

I had no choice

you wouldn’t listen

I couldn’t help myself

I lost control

you made me lose control

you wanted to make me hurt you

no one needs to know about this

if you love me

you won’t tell anyone

pretend you fell down

it’s nothing

not even a bruise

I’ll never do that again

river03flow on but don’t over-flow