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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Recap June 2022

Most popular post in June was Wentworth Perk Perks Up Sydney, that I originally posted in 2012 & reposted the link & boom! over 150 hits – making it the most popular post of the year so far. On some Fridays I have been going back into my archives to ten years ago to resurrect these old post. https://topoet.ca/…/25/wentworth-perk-perks-up-sydney-2/ 

Picture Perfect:  123 sections, about 174,000 words posted so far with at least 12,000 to be edited then posted. I say ‘at least’ as I am nearing the end & discovered that I merely made notes for the next two climactic scenes so there could easily be another 20,000 words yet, much of them being ‘fresh’ writing.

Started a new Wednesday format, giving the monks a rest for the summer. It’ll be called Summer Reflections 2022 where I post about my old clothes, recovery memories, Wicca, & whatever comes to mind.

Watched a slew of forgettable movies & a couple more memorable ones – How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1967). Wow! I can’t recall when I saw this last but wow what a fabulous film with a vibrant performance by Robert Morse, who starred in the Broadway original. The set & costume work is spot on perfection in candy colours. The songs are fun, I love ‘I Believe In You.’ Fossey-esque choreography. Recent revival had Daniel Radcliffe in the lead, another Nick Jonas.

Equally memorable is Chinese Roulette directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Vivid colours in this turgid, painfully artificial & seemingly endless psychological drama that had me snickering at everything from the hairstyles, makeup, set up & particularly the soundtrack music. It also features an amazing performance by Andrea Schobe as the ultimate manipulative child. 

In June I re-read ‘Loving Man: A Photographic Guide to Gay Male Lovemaking – Mark Freedman Ph.D., Harvey Mayes – 1976 – 1st Edition’ Hardcover. I bought this book while I was still living in Sydney. I think I got it via The Playboy Book Club, as it was considered porn by customs & couldn’t be sold in Canada. It made my decision to escape Cape Breton very easy.

Reading it now I love the innocence of it – pre-HIV, pre-WWW, pre-apps – it reflects how things have changed & how they haven’t changed. Back in the day we used ‘looking for connections’ ad sections in gay magazines to meet outside of noisy smokey bars. Street cruising is now done with apps. Our current era of acceptance is still as fraught with prejudice & ignorance. Rainbow flags appear on businesses not because of inclusivity or to show support but to invite our gay dollars. 

from a past production

The less said about Hamlet the better – the best part was the amazing weather for the drive there & back lol. (Dull In Denmark https://topoet.ca/2022/06/24/dull-in-denmark/ )

Upcoming reviews: Rocky Horror Show (Stirling Summer Theatre! – yes Rocky is now safe for small town Ontario); Stratford: The Miser, All’s Well That Ends Well, Hamlet 911.

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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.

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Recap May 2022

They wouldn’t let me try it on 😦

The TOpoet.ca following blog grew to ! The WP map does show my hits have come from  countries around the world. That Canada tops the list is unusual. That Poland (Witaj Polsko) & Ecuador (Hola lectores en ecuador) are in the top 10 is a surprise. Hello to my fans in Morocco (مرحباً أيها القراء في المغرب)!

Picture Perfect -119 sections, about 169,000 words posted so far with  20,000 approx to be edited then posted. These last sections took a fair amount editing, fresh writing & even some minor side plot development as I inch closer to the final big scenes now that the remains of the abducted children have been found. 

Watched an amazing documentary ‘Firestarter – The Story of Bangarra’ which starts as history of the Australian aboriginal dance company & becomes a powerful mediation on the cost of creativity. The dancing is stunning, the music is incredible & the cost of creativity is heartbreaking. A must see that is streaming on TVO.

Watched Midsommar, bound to be come a season favourite. The depth of research was gratifying & the ritual aspects of the story were spot on & thought totally imaginary felt authentic. When I watch it again I will skip to when they arrive in Sweden as the first act is dreary & quickly drained my sympathy for any of the characters. By the time they got to the commune I was happy with all of them dying. 

The extras on our edition of the DVD were banal though I was surprised that only one, of all the leads was American, as I assumed they all were until I heard their actual accents: Irish, Scottish, & that weird accent that is sort of Manx-African-Aussie. Sadly the soundtrack lp contains none of the Swedish chanting – so I didn’t buy it.

Read an excellent set of short stories: 13 Views of the Suicide Woods by Bracken MacLeod. Eerie, scary, inventive well-written tales that are Twilight Zone extreme with explicit gore & violence. Highly recommended for any horror fans.

May has been a month full of of activity, of breaking routines & getting dirty. Dirty digging in the dirt to get my garden ready for the summer. Some hostas were split & halves replanted else where in the garden. All the perennials returned, some worse for winter wear mind you. Loads of annuals planted – asters, alyssum, begonia, marigolds, snap dragons, impatiens, daisies, pansies, petunias, coleus, plus seeds are sprouting for four kinds of morning glory. It will a colourful garden for sure. 

a side & b side 🙂 bluer than they appear here

Getting back to my roots by adding some Stonehenge Preseli bluestone to my rock/crystal collection. Part of Stonehenge is a ring of standing stones made of bluestone that is only found is & was quarried from Preseli, Wales. I did an esty search & ordered some. 

Coming up in June is a day trip to Stratford to see Hamlet – after the excellent Richard III we saw in May I’m looking forward to this season’s take on Hamlet.

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Stratford Big Rig

Some pictures taken on a recent day trip to Stratford to see Richard III. The big rig photos were taken from a moving car hence the slight blur.

morning sky when we hit the 401
our favorite pie shop
too big for our cooler
washroom selfie at Bentley’s
outside the new Tom Patterson Theatre
gardens at the Tom Patterson
on the way home we got stuck behind this big rig – note it is wider than the road
big rig finally turns at 401 – it added 30 min to our drive home 😦
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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.

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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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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
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Early Worm

Early Worm

am I too early

is this the right time

is this where I’m supposed to be

did I wake you

I’m usually early

is this seat taken

I’m not the first to arrive

I’ll walk slower

I’ll get off one stop sooner

walk around the block to kill time

<>

I don’t really want to be here

I’m not as eager as it seems

transit was faster than expected

there were no delays for a change

someone has to arrive first

maybe I shouldn’t be the first one they see

I won’t come back later

I’ll be one of the first to leave

I’ll only stick around awhile

<>

only the late have a place in this room

the ones who struggled to get here

who had trials & tribulations

they arrive breathless agitated apologetic

eager to be there 

all I sacrificed was time

I am usually early when I go to things like poetry readings, plays, coffee dates – I like having a few minutes to orient myself – to find a decent spot to sit so I have my preferred view of the stage. At spoken word shows I prefer to face the stage directly when positive. The worst thing about one spot was the narrow room which meant no one could face the stage with twisting their necks constantly. I was pleased when they closed.

With the spokenword shows I frequented or became involved with being early also gave me chance to help, if needed. Hosts were always glad for someone just to see someone there. The wait for the first arrivals can be nerve wracking.

When seeing shows with reserved seating: i.e Stratford or Shaw, we’d get seated asap to void clambering over people in those tightropes – often not even wide enough to sit without your knees rubbing on the seat ion front of you. Architects who do that seating layout often forget people have legs -thanks for the great sight lines but curses for crushing my kneecaps so badly I can’t walk for the rest of the day. 

At least with reserved seating one does get asked to vacate their seat for someone arrived just in time for the show to start & feel they deserve your ideal spot more than them. I’ve done door for shows & come back to find my coat & bag removed from my seat but people who presume they have the right to turf me without asking. 

If you’re late, you’re late – it’s not my fault you have to struggle in. I’m not going to move down one for your convenience. I’m not that nice a guy. 


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