Macbeth Sept. 14th, ’16

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Another Macbeth! This time without transporting it into the now (or rather the 60ies in South Africa, even though I liked the idea back then)

No, this time it’s the classic approach with lots of thunder, lightning, howling, three exceptionally frightening wise ladies, and a cauldron that is cooking up some dangerous, evil things. It’s truly a nice change to all that “adapting” that happens in the Aeneid. Again the cast is great, the interaction between Macbeth Ian Lake and his lady Krystin Pellegrino reminded me a lot of that one scene in “slings and arrows” 💬👇- in other words: brilliant. Scott Wentworth as Banquo was fantastic – no surprise. I have up until now loved everything he’s done at the festival so far. Again he is tackling a father’s part (merchant of Venice was one of his strongest parts and I loved him in it) and it’s great to see him change from warrior to doting parent. The chemistry between the actors works, therefore a great evening is had by all.

No great surprises, but a solid performance and a credit to the festival.

 

☝💬 The scene I was referring to: in the TV show, when Macbeth returns from war, his wife – unbeknownst to the actor playing the lead – starts kissing him, then in a surprise mone rips off his pants to the deafening applause of the audience. Well, the pants stay on in this production,but boy, that shirt off scene… is it getting hot in here???

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midsummer night’s dream, a chamber play Sept.12th, ’14

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It’s four amazing actors playing with most of the parts of Shakespeare’s midsummer night’s dream. I was glad I was familiar with the play, as otherwise it would have been a lot less interesting. Dion Johnston, Mike Nadajewski, Sarah Afful and Trish Lindstroem were absolutely fabulous.

And that’s all the good things I’m able to say about the thing. It was shown in what appeared to be a dirty basement with 12 rows of seats. An installation by an artist seemed to me as if everything that had been stored in there was now tucked to the ceiling, but hey, that’s art. Also, I had ordered my ticket in November, when they hadn’t even known yet what venue to use. And then I was seated in the second to last row, and basically didn’t see a thing. I admit I raised a stink and the marvellous stage manager sat me and 3 others in row b.

Unfortunately the directing – by Peter Sellars! – consisted mostly of turning down the lights on the dark coloured stage. It was a bit tiresome. So not really a huge win, this one.

Hay Fever Sept. 10th, ’14

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It’s Noel Coward. It’s supposed to be brilliant. To think he wrote this over one weekend, no rewrites, makes it even more impressive. He based the play on a famous American actress (she was the first Blanche in streetcar named desire) – and after seeing the play she reportedly never spoke to him again. He seemed to have created a very accurate portrayal of her highly disfunctional family.

In this production Lucy Peacock is the famed actress who fights getting older by terrorising the guests that are lured into their mansion in the country. Stage star Judith Bliss, her novelist husband and their two grown children have each invited houseguests for the weekend. But as the Blisses indulge their artistic eccentricities in a hilarious whirlwind of flirtation and histrionics, the guests begin to wonder if they’ve landed in a madhouse – and if they can survive the weekend with their own wits intact. The family is dangerously  witty, sharp tongued and intelligent and they have no scruples to bring their guests in the worst possible situations. A harmless kiss leads not only to immediate engagement but also to mother Bliss dramatically giving her children away. 

When the guests abscond early in the morning, the family is again happily quarreling about streets in Paris and if they lead to a certain place. Their guests certainly feel lucky that they escape unseen!

The audience is lucky, too. The cast is amazing, Cynthia Dale brilliant as the demi monde, and Lucy Peacock is grand as always. It’s fast paced fun, cleverly unmasking the eccentricities of the rich and famous. A must see in this season in Stratford!

Alice through the looking glass Sept.10th, ’14

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Honestly: just to see the great Tom McCamus dressed in a school girl’s summer dress and later on as a hare is worth the ticket.

 

It’s a kids’ play and as such it’s fun, it’s loud, it’s full of energy and has great costumes. I saw it midweek which meant there were less kids and more pensioners as school has already started. To follow Alice on her quest to become a queen even though she has to start out as a pawn is fun and the poems and dialogues are both witty and clever. I didn’t catch any of the jelly beans they threw into the audience. 😦 it’s hilarious even for grown ups.

I especially loved the very creative way they had designed the set. It’s a colourful display of trees, stars, there’s books and horses with hoarse voices (see what I did there?) and even without knowing the books it’s huge fun to watch that particular game of chess unfold. Trish Lindstroem is a brilliant Alice who depicts a seven year old incredibly believable. I already wrote how much fun Tom McCamus was in his flowery dress (to think the day before he was a psychotic king… LOL) and Cynthia Dale as the Red Queen was amazing as always. To think that she was on stage AGAIN for the evening performance of Hay Fever makes me really envy her stamina. She was great in HF as well, btw.

King John Sept.9th, ’14

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It’s a seldom played drama that centres around one of the less fabulous kings in English history. John Lackland is often depicted as not very brave, accused of giving in too easily to French demands. With him the reign of the Plantagenets ended. But he was a younger son, and instead of landing in some convent or other, her managed to not only rule England for more than a decade but also signed the Magna Charta (or was forced to signing it – historians differ there), which is the base of modern law.

In the play king john is confronted with his nephew, a boy whose mother – with a little help from the French – wants to push him onto the throne. And it is really the women who are the driving force of the events that follow – at least John makes it look that way. Because his mother opposes the very idea.

And there’s also Philipp the bastard, who – instead of getting the land from his albeit legitimate younger brother – accepts a title as Plantagenet and enthusiastically follows John to war. His sarcastic wit and fighting skills secure him his king’s friendship as they lay siege to a town in France. Because John does go to war against France and Austria (and they even found a guy who eerily looks like one of our less attractive rulers lol) 

And while king John is excommunicated and claims to have won the war, in the end it is a marriage that seals a contract between France and England. Only that king John can’t enjoy the peace that hopefully follows: a monk has poisoned him, he dies.

 

Now the cast. Tom McManus as king John. He adopts an almost singing, lisping voice that makes his orders to kill his young nephew all the more scary. He says outrageous things with a smile a and a wink. He is, as always, very good.

A pleasant surprise is Graham Abbey as Philipp, whose acerbic one liners are to the point and provide the lighter counterpoint to the dramatic story. He has great comedic timing and he gets better every year. Yes, he plays to his female audience, but hey, he has something to play with! If you got it, flaunt it. 

Oh, I booked a second performance for me. I figured I deserve it. 😉 and this time it’s going to be stage door!!

Antony and Cleopatra. Sept. 9th, ’14

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Geraint Wyn Davies and Yanna McIntosh – two first rate actors … what can possibly go wrong. Apparently a lot, otherwise someone wouldn’t have laughed out loud during Antony’s death scene. It was probably the worst ouch moment in this production.

It started out so well. Antony and Cleopatra together in Egypt, living the good life, casually dressed and enjoying each other almost a bit like a wedded couple where the spark of first love hasn’t vanished yet. Antony mostly ignores the letters from Rome that remind him of his duties, Cleopatra trying to entice him anew each day, knowingg that her power and standing comes from his army and should he go for good, neither she nor her followers would be safe for long.

But then there’s one letter he can’t ignore. Antony’s wife died and he has to come back to Rome. And as soon he’s there he sheds the lover and becomes the politician again – he marries the Caesar’s sister. That he then leaves for Egypt doesn’t go over so well.

The Egyptian army is no match for Roman soldiers and even Antony’s oldest friend defects, only to die. One last time Cleopatra wants to test Antony: she has servants tell him she is dead as she wants to know how he’ll react. He does react though not the way she had expected. Left by his friends, his army scattered, the battle lost he now thinks there is nothing more to live for. So in a beautiful moving scene he falls into his sword and slowly bleeds to death “not dead…” he sighs. (Cue in laughter)

I was so ashamed I actually skipped stage door.

Oh, Cleopatra: in order to not fall into the hands of the Roman victors who would have displayed her in a triumph, she lets herself get bitten by a poisonous snake.

I loved Seana’ s portrayal of a mature intelligent queen who is politically aware and sexually attractive to get what she wants. She was incredibly impressive. And I don’t know if it was me or if he had a bad day, but I wasn’t overwhelmed by geraint wyn davies. Maybe I saw him in too many Shakespeare plays where he used his Welsh accent. But in his scenes with Cleopatra – even though there was much kissing and grasping – I got more the impression of a constantly tipsy merchant than of a high ranking soldier enthralled by the most beautiful woman of all Egypt.

Now,  I’ll see it again. Maybe we’re both in a better disposition then. At least that’s what I hope.

Wanderlust, Aug 4th, ’12

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This new musical is another world premiere at the Stratford Festival and it’s living up to the town’s theatre’s high reputation – not least thanks to the skills of Tom Rooney, who plays Robert Service with all the passion and desperation this character deserves.

It’s about Robert W Service, a British bank clerk who by emigrating from his native England to Canada follows his heart and his “wanderlust” he portraits in many poems. Dubbed as the Canadian Kipling in real life, he goes from job to job, closing in to the wide planes of the yukon territory that call to him whenever he’s bound to a desk job to earn some money. He died with 84, famous and hopefully after a happy and fulfilled and successful life as a writer of both poetry and novels, having it make to the Yukon as well as having travelled through America, Canada, even Russia.

Our musical starts while he is employed at the Canadian bank of commerce branch in Victoria,  British Columbia, – two years before they actually did send him to the Yukon branch. While he is in Victoria though, he writes poems full of longing about the life of a free man, digging gold, being a cowboy. Yet he cannot make up his mind to leave the security of the bank for good: He is in love with his beautiful coworker Luise, even though she is engaged to his boss, aptly named Dan McGrew. Luise is flattered by his attention and encourages his infatuation – dangling the carrot of a life together and casually mentioning a ploy to embezzle money easily from the bank. Robert is too smitten to resist. He takes the money to have a chance of a life of adventure –  only to discover that dearest Luise wanted the fortune for herself alone, leaving him with fraud charges at the bank.

But then it is she who is duped: as a test Robert had filled a bag with his clothes and not with money, on the contrary, he had returned the embezzled money back into the correct accounts, now able to claim he was just executing a test to prove how easily money would be vanishing. As he attributes the test to his boss Dan McGrew he ensures that McGrew is sent to the Yukon branch to build the new bank there. He, Robert, is going to stay in Victoria. Because only there, the owner of the bank tells him, he could do what he’s best at: to dream.

The play itself is moving and the crime plot interesting enough to capture its audience. Unfortunately the music is fun, but not extraordinary even tho they used the ballads “The shooting of Dan McGrew” and “The Cremation of Sam McGee “, both fabulous examples of his poetic skills.

Thanks to Tom Rooney, Dan Chameroy as Dan McGrew and Randy Hughson as the bank owner (and the brilliant Lucy Peacock as shady Mrs Munsch) the play is fun to watch and left me with a smile!