“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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Honourable Women

Where to start with this so-so Stratford Festival production of Julius Caesar? This early play, not regarded as one of Shakespeare’s better pieces, isn’t improved any by the casting of women in the lead roles. I was hoping there would be some layered resonance on the current discussion about gender & representation but if there is it was under too many layers. An arrogant & ambitious ruler meets a bad end. Assassins pay the price of their actions. 

Seana McKenna does not portray Caesar as being particularly arrogant or ambitious. She handles the role well but seems merely content to give the lines a well enunciated delivery. Michelle Giroux as Mark Antony invests the character with urgency & emotional connection. She handles the slyly manipulative “lend me your ears” speech very well. Now this a character with ambitions. Also good was Jonathan Goad as Marcus Brutus. 

Director Scott Wentworth does able work with the ‘rabble’ crowd scenes so they have good energy & theatricality – I really enjoy the opening of Act 2 with the rabble scattered throughout the theatre. Slow motion battle scenes & Gregorian chant didn’t work for me. I did like the hand washing nod to McBeth though.

When men play women, cross-dressing or doing drag, they are judged by how well they pass as women, so it is fair to do the same for when women play men. Seana is the most successful on surface appearance, Michelle is okay, Irene Poole as Cassius could pass as a teenage boy not as an adult male. Other women cast as men in the production are more androgynous than masculine. 

 

I was happy to see Julius Caesar and this is a solid production. I also appreciated the casting of women in men’s roles – this sort of gender play, only reversed, was the law in Shakespeare’s time. Maybe it’s time for a really tradition production where men play all the roles. Scott Wentworth would make a brilliant Lady McBeth.

PS: No one says: “Great Caesar’s ghost.” Also, I could not get that classic Canadian comedy moment “Julie, don’t go!  Julie, don’t go!  But he wouldn’t listen!” out of my mind: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rR_5h8CzRcI

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 

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#sfPericles 

Pericles is journey/quest play that takes us through parallel universes were fathers & daughters, loss & love struggle to find happy endings.The play opens when Diana & her maidens walk on stage singing – no boarding call, no lights down & we’re on our journey. The production breaks into song several times. Sweet or stirring, moments of Les Mis & echoes of Brecht made for captivating moments.

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gone but not Starbucks yet

The cast was solid, some excellent villainous then comic work from Wayne Best, stalwart Evan Buliung managing to age well & suffer without being one-note. Deborah Hay was good but the decision to have her play three different women in the same dress confused some of the audience – at one point there was an nubile audience whisper: who is she now?

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I reflect on empty seats

Each place Pericles arrives is clearly different though – excellent costume work gives the show a sense of moving though time as well – from Victorian, to Renaissance. Great sea storms, sword play and romance gave the production momentum & energy.

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candy in refraction

I enjoyed the resonance of other Shakespeare plays that run through Pericles – The Tempest, Claire Lautier as a clear Lady MacB, plus all the plays where someone washes up on shore, is thought dead & isn’t, or survives a bawd’s life. An excellent production well directed by Scott Wentworth & highly recommended.

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losing his head to the music

Check out my other Festival reviews: Love’s Labours Lost: http://wp.me/p1RtxU-1ik; The Physicists http://wp.me/p1RtxU-1j4.

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Seeds

like a sparrow

fluttering from Sylvia’s tree

i drop down

looking for seeds

 

i follow others

pecking at the past

for kernels of what happened

to bring me to this point

 

it’s not that my memory

is barren or faulty

but that part of my past

isn’t where so much springs from

 

a happy home

with no abuse

strange & sad to admit

what a normal family i had

 

can’t blame them

for me wanting to pick up a gun

and shoot everyone who ever

treated me wrong

 

stranger & sadder to admit

no one ever treated me so wrong

that i look to my past

for seamy secrets

 

i don’t look to my dad

with blame but with gratitude

my mind is not clouded

with revenge or rescue

 

i don’t swim lost

in a sea of things to say

to change but feel compelled

to peck at the past

 

looking for some grain of truth

to bring to this discussion

about fathers & sons

some drama trauma confession

 

but i can’t and frankly

i am glad that this lack of grist

pushes me out of the tree

once again

soon

November 1 – 30 Participating NaNoWriMo

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