“Abject Object”

Over the years I have seen nearly all Shakespeare’s plays. Thankfully Stratford Festival presents one of the infrequently produced ones every year or so. This year it is Henry VIII, which we saw at the intimate Studio Theatre. A play with the largest cast list done in the smallest theatre presented a challenge for director Martha Henry, which she met with ease.

This was a preview production but most of the performances were excellent. Irene Poole as Queen Katherine was strong, her death scene was compelling – cutting the appearance of the spirit apparitions allowed the scene even greater emotional resonance. Kim Horsman as Duchess of Norfolk was great fun. Jonathan Goad as Henry was boyish, regal and made the king so appealing one almost forgives his treatment of women. The supporting players were good, Scott Wentworth as the Duke of Norfolk was particularly strong.

Thanks to the series The Tudors I was able to sort out the political web that was being spun for Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn but I’m not sure how anyone unfamiliar with the actual history would have fared with the religious & political intrigues that run though the play. But the play is also an emotional look at the disintegration of a marriage regardless of the political context.

The staging was simple, the costumes were detailed, though there were more sequins than one would have expected at that time 🙂 The ending bows were cleverly  choreographed. Highly recommended.

 

My only quibble is with an audience member, in my row, two seats to my right who felt it was perfectly fine to use his smartphone to check messages & text replies two different times, while the show was in progress. I guess I should be grateful he didn’t start a whispered conversation on it. 

 

 

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“Brave Spirits Indeed”

I have seen several productions of The Tempest – some at Stratford, some on TV, at least one Shakespeare in the Park, plus a few film adaptations. The last one I saw starred Christopher Plumber at the Festival. So the play holds little surprise – the pleasure is in the telling.

My favorite Shakespeare character is in this play. Caliban, the true outsider. A creature with human foibles but abused and/or found repulsive by all humans. I’ve frequently found Ariel irritating as opposed to delightful.

Over all this is a solid production with some wonderful over-the-top moments in Act 2. Martha Henry is a fine Prospero – though I would have liked a bit more bitterness, as opposed to the simmering anger but it is good to see her take on the character. There is real chemistry between Mamie Zwettler and André Sills as the young lovers Miranda and Sebastian. 

André Morin as Ariel give a good performance – perhaps the tree bark costume grounded him as one of the earth spirits. An apt costume for a spirit freed from a tree. Michael Blake as Caliban, costumed with barnacles, clearly a sea spirit, is strong but comes across more pissed off than vengeful. As with Prospero I would have liked less amiability – they are too likable 🙂 

The rest of the cast gives nicely detailed performances & as always the reliable stalwarts Stephen Ouimette & Tom McCamus are fun as Trinculo & Stephano – there is always bring great comic chemistry between the two of them.

The colonizing subtext of the play has become more troubling over time – much like Tom Sawyer/Huckleberry Finn it is becoming more politically charged & I wonder how soon it’ll be before The Tempest gets banned. But that’s another blog post. It is still a fun production & well worth seeing.

ps – Some of my focus was distracted repeatedly by a member of the audience who had no hesitation in taking out their cell phone to take pictures of the action on stage – I missed the moment of the entrance of the Harpy with the turning on of their camera screen to get some shots. When they started to do this yet again someone nearer to them leaned over to stop them. At least the photo taker didn’t start to share their pics on social media during the show. How considerate.

Other summer reviews:

Long Day’s Journey Into Night: “a ghost haunting the past” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-30f 

Coriolanus: “My rage is gone” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-31K 

The King and I: The King and My Memories https://wp.me/p1RtxU-31Y

Julius Caesar: Honourable Women https://wp.me/p1RtxU-33T

The Hound of the Baskervilles: Entertainment Afoot

https://wp.me/p1RtxU-34I

#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.

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August 28-31 – attending – FanExpo Canada http://www.fanexpocanada.com

expo

October 10-12 – Gratitude Roundup http://www.torontogratitude.org

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October 19 – feature – Cabaret Noir – Pinebow pineocthttps://www.facebook.com/events/1651892755035275/

samples

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

abuse

 

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

Mother Courage

Back to Stratford earlier this week to see Mother Courage and her Children. I’ve seen this various production of this play over the years and was looking forward to what vision Martha Henry brought to it. Working within Brecht’s ‘deconstruction’ of theatrical artifice can produce wonderful results.

children run kids, war is coming

Mother Courage is, as you know, an allegorical figure blah blah blah – who cares, right? Regardless of the intellectual construct the play has to entertain as much as it seeks to educate. Sadly I found this more on the educational side of things.

The production is stolid, deliberate and staid. Nothing fresh has been brought to it. It’s not as if, like, say Waiting For Godot, in which every stage direction must be followed from costume to gender of cast.

redhat who needs hats in war

A few years ago MacB was set in worn torn Africa & borught something new to the text in doing so. This production is pedestrian in staging, from costumes to lighting. The songs are fine, well-sung and were the best part of the show.

The cast is excellent – Seanna McKenna brings some energy to Mother but never really connects. I know Brecht didn’t want the audience from getting caught up emotionally but there is a difference, to me, between his temporal distance and performers disinterest in their characters.

toys the war on toys

Past productions I’ve seen may have not had the high caliber of Stratford but they had more energy and faster flow. They left me satisfied. This one was like taking your medicine.

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October 19 – feature – Cabaret Noir – Pinebow

pinebow

 https://www.facebook.com/events/1651892755035275/

samples

Say It

 

often it seems all they have to say

is that they live to have something to say

that the word is what keeps the alive

keeps them going

that the opportunity to share the word

is a struggle worth fighting for

that this is the revolution

that the chance to be heard is innate primal

that they’d fight to the death

for the chance to say their piece

which is about

how much they need to fight to say their words

 

I wait for them to get beyond this point

they have an audience here

who wants to hear them

who needs to hear more

than how important this is

how hard it is to struggle

to say what has to be said

isn’t there more to be said

than how hard hard the struggle is

to say what they have to say

 

what the fuck do you have say

get to the point

stop dancing around gasping for air

look for something fresh to spout

instead of falling back

on the easy outs

of how pure your love for some lady is

how there are starving children

struggling to say what they got to say

maybe what they want to say is feed us

yeah we love you to give us the word

but that word doesn’t fill our stomach

doesn’t put a roof over our head

doesn’t stop the abuse by people

who shout us down

like you shout us down

with their need to be heard

newpine