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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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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Standing On Guard

Most of these are ornamental statues that are meant to be more than decorative. All are meant to either attract good luck or repel bad luck. I see various sizes of the Chinese lions more often than the others. The courtier is a one-of-a-kind outside a hotel in Stratford, Ontario.

Chinese lions – Fu Foo Dogs
Fu Foo Dog close up
guarding serenity
meditation
griffins on O’Connor
happy to threaten you
Stratford courtier with cookies
or is that a hamburger
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Recap September 2021

Stratford safety protocols

Over the past month my TOpoet.ca following blog grew to 465! The WP map does show my hits have come from  countries around the world. That USA & Canada top the list is no surprise but India is back to third place while Sweden &  Bangladesh remain in the top 10 is a surprise. Hello Zimbabwe! 

Most popular posts were Pandemic Poetry Project (https://topoet.ca/2021/09/16/pandemic-poetry-project/); Sunlight & Shadows (https://topoet.ca/2021/09/13/sunlight-and-shadows/). My particular favorite was Tales of Brave Trending (https://topoet.ca/2021/09/19/tales-of-brave-trending/).

My Tumblr is at 350 followers. 226 Twitter followers. Picture Perfect: 86 sections, about 126,000 words posted so far with approx 66,000 remaining to be edited then posted.

A surprisingly great watch has been American Horror Show: Double Feature. All the usual throat slashing & blood drinking but this time combined with a sharp, merciless look at creativity & the sacrifices made to be productive. In this case a drug that unlocks a writer’s, painter’s blocked inner potential. If you are brilliant & blocked you become genius, if you are mediocre & blocked you become a sort of stumbling grey person. Intense performances with Frances Conroy stunning & Macaulay Culkin excellent. 

Finally got around to seeing Parasite – a visually & philosophically stunning film. Figuratively & literally the plot moves through cultural levels to a fugal climax that is breathtaking. The rich house set is an amazing piece of modern architecture – one of those sets like the astounding deco apartments that show up is 30’s movies but only existed in movies. The plot made me think of Dante’s Inferno as it takes us literally through the rings of Hell. 

Also watched Valley of the Dolls, again 🙂 https://topoet.ca/2021/09/26/valley-of-the-bras/ 

nice tongue action

Finished reading Claude McKay’s Home to Harlem (1928). McKay was part of the Harlem Renaissance & wrote several novels & books of poetry but his approach was ‘earthier’ & deemed not elevated enough to cast a favourable light on his race. The novel is a fun, fast slice of the night life, the work life, the love/sex life of the times by someone who lived those times.  His hero has a strong emotional bromance with another male character: Wiki tells us “McKay was bisexual; he pursued relationships with both men and women throughout his life. He never officially “came out” (nor did anyone else in his time) nor explicitly stated his sexual preference.” 

The highlight of the month was a day trip to Stratford to see Three Tall Women. https://topoet.ca/2021/10/01/ah-yes-i-remember-it-well/ 

The Tingler

as a boy

I couldn’t tell the truth

if my life depended on it

mot that I was a compulsive liar

or even lied that often

but under any sort of questioning

I was guilty

regardless of being innocent

Did you do that?

no – which was the truth

Go to your room

Until you are ready to tell the truth.

but

No buts. Now go you lying loser.

<>

to avoid that banishment

I’d have to tell a lie

but I was even a worse liar

thanks to some movie I saw

where some sort of centipede

would materialize

around the spine

when you were scared

lying scared me

as much as telling the truth

I would feel those

million sharp legs 

sinking into my back

my skin would tingle

The Tingler!

that’s what that movie was called

<>

a lie would kill me

it would crush my heart

burst out of my nose

brain spattering everywhere

insect legs would dig out from my eyes

<>

so I was afraid to lie

the punishment for telling the truth

was bad enough

not be be believed

not to be trusted was confusing

it was better to leave the room

let them think what they wanted

because the clearly truth 

made no fucking difference

<>

at that age

they made sure

I knew I was a lying loser

a useless dishonest kid

which I know now was a lie

and that’s the truth

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Stratford September 30 2021

Some photos taken on our day trip to Stratford to see Three Tall Women

endless sky
corn corn corn
leaves turning
autumn colours
Studio Theatre garden
Studio Theatre garden
Stratford town hall steps with orange T-shirts & running shoes
deco street lamp
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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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 & buy coffee
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July 2021 Recap

Stratford flower box

Over the past month by TOpoet.ca following blog shrank to 450! I went through my follower list & removed people who were no longer active on WordPress. Active followers show up in a colour, non-active followers show up in black. The WP map does show my hits have come from 32  countries around the world. Nigeria, Bahrain in the top ten! India & Bangladesh holding steady & hola Spain 🙂 Ireland! Lithuania?

Most popular posts were: My Five Year (Dead Friends) (https://topoet.ca/2021/07/04/dead-friends/), Summer Murderer (https://topoet.ca/2021/07/13/summer-murderer/). Both of which are my personal favourites.

Shakespeare Pie Shop mmm

My Tumblr is at 331 followers. Twitter is at 224 followers.

Picture Perfect: 78 sections, about 116000 words posted so far with  approx 73,000 to be edited then posted. 

TLN (https://www.tln.ca) does an occasional Italian film festival of mostly recent films – films that don’t show up anywhere else on TV. Comedies for the most part but always with a sharp social bite & sometimes a dash of romance. One I really enjoyed was The Man Who Bought The Moon – set in Sardinia, one gets a glimpse of the political & social regard of the island by the rest of Italy. Our hero first has to be taught how to pass for a Sardinian. Hilarious at points & finally the moon itself appears to save the day. Charming & well worth searching out.

That touch of magic realism owes everything to Fellini. I watched, for the first time, his Roma – there is some bravura film making in this virtually plotless movie. There are reference to his past films & even a hint of Amacord which he already planning.. Impressions of his past mixed with look at his present film making. Fascinating.

from the gift shop

God’s Own Country – I was given this dvd for Xmas a few years ago & finally got around to seeing it. A refreshing gay love story in which coming out is not a part of it. Set on a sheep farm it is far removed from the usual druggy, bar scene fodder. Our hero becomes involved with Gheorghe, a Romanian migrant worker, is hired as extra help. Played by Josh O’Connor & Alec Secăreanu, respectively, they make photogenic couple. Similar to Brokeback Mountain one is not surprised when good looking men find each other attractive. Josh played Prince Charles in The Crown so I thought of this as the The Prince & The Underwear Model. 

Read the excellent Dolls! Dolls! Dolls! by Steve Rebello. A behind the scenes look at the making of Valley Of The Dolls – one of my favourite movies. He also goes into the writing of the book & JS’s career. Full of juicy feuds, casting wars & the sad misuse of Judy Garland; this is a great read that reveals as much about how actresses were treated as it does about the business of making movies. Highly recommended.

silk tie on sale at Gift Shop – yes marked down to $1.00 !!

Took a day trip to Stratford. We didn’t see anything – getting tickets online was problematic thanks to the pandemic seating restrictions. The weather was perfect, traffic as usual, lunched at Features, picked up a few things at the Gift Shop, hit the main box-office to reserve spots on a waiting list for Three Tall Women at the end of September – including the time it took to drive there it took as long as it would have on line 🙂 A call from the box-office the next day confirmed we had tickets – no more waiting list waiting for us.

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