Let’s Keep Killing Shakespeare!

12 Nov

Eric Jean

Hey Brawlers! It’s finally “next time!”

No, that doesn’t mean a new recording of Titus Andronicus – though we’re hoping to finally get some Brawlers together to  get act V out Soon™.

I mean that it’s finally time to find to talk about IDW Publishing‘s comic series Kill Shakespeare again! You know the awesome graphic novel / comic book series created and written by Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col.

As Daniel pointed out, we’re reading the hella slick “Backstage Edition,” a hardcover edition of all twelve issues of Kill Shakespeare. If you can swing it, I highly recommend picking it up here. May as well pick up the other volumes while you’re at it. And while you’re shopping, why not load up on some Kill Shakespeare t-shirts.

On an unrelated note, Christmas is coming up in a few weeks…

Issue Five: O Coward Conscience

Courtesy – IDW PublishingSoft! I did but dream.

“O coward conscience, how dost thou afflict me!”

– Richard the Third, V.iii

“Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.”

– Hamlet, III.i

Hamlet’s still confused about what’s going on in issue 5. He’s still convinced that Richard III is a good guy and that Juliet, Othello and the rebels are disruptive elements of the benign king’s just rule. Also, Iago just saved Hamlet’s life so he’s still pretty convinced that Iago’s on his side. Juliet and Othello aren’t buying any of it though. And Othello’s pretty mad, bro.

It’s hard to take Hamlet and Falstaff seriously of course as they’re still walking around in dresses after their getaway in the last issue but what’s Shakespeare without cross-dressing?

Meanwhile, Lady Macbeth and Richard are negotiating. He wants the use of her Black Guard troops but she’s not budging: she’s planning to keep them stationed in her lands. She’s smokin’ hot but Radcliff’s right – she’s trouble for sure.

Hamlet tries to run off in the middle of the night with Iago but Juliet spots him and tells him he’s got to go on alone if he wants to leave. So off he goes and wanders into a walking nightmare. Hamlet sees his father’s image go all zombie undead, pulling at his skin and growing snakes out of his flesh.

That drives him a little nuts but he comes to his senses as he wanders right unto a scene of Don John and Richard’s conies beating up some townsfolk to find out where Hamlet’s hiding. Don John even cuts out Shallow’s tongue and, like a wuss, Hamlet hides in the bushes until they pass.

When Juliet and company arrive in Shrewsbury, they are told not to stick around seeing as the fear of Richard’s men might make someone rat them out. Seems like some good advice.

Finally, Hamlet eventually falls and knocks himself out in the woods trying to run away from Don John and his troops. He’s found by Lysander, Demetrius and Adriana who are on their way to Shrewsbury. Along the way, they drop some truth about their beneficent King Richard.

Characters introduced: Lysander, Demetrius, Adriana

Issue Six: Lend Me Your Ears

Courtesy – IDW Publishing

“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar.”

– Julius Caesar, III.ii

Turns out that crazy walking nightmare wasn’t just some bad food but was some sort of spell cast by Lady Macbeth and the weird sisters. (You know, the ones who tell Macbeth he’s be king one day but that Banquo’s kids will take over from him.) In this version, it seems like Lady M’s tapping into their juju to mess with Hamlet (and Skype with Iago, eventually).

In Shrewsbury, Iago’s messing with Othello’s mind by playing nice but “accidentally” saying stuff to set him off. And Juliet and Falstaff find Hamlet sleeping in some stables and guilt him into working the fields to pay for his free lunch.

While they work, Adriana drops some hints to Hamlet who’s totally clueless (Hey dude! Wake up! She wants to “care for thy coat!,” know what I’m saying?) But Hamlet’s too busy being emo Hamlet on account of his being a wuss earlier and not fighting Don John to save the peasant’s tongue.

Elsewhere, King Richard sleeps with Lady Macbeth.

Juliet makes a rousing speech to convince the people of Shrewsbury to join the rebellion against Richard. Rolls a natural 20 on her Diplomacy check. Everyone’s all in!

Ooops! Guess that was a little loud. Seems like Don John and co. hear that, too and now they’ve got the place surrounded and have started beating up on folks!

This time, Hamlet’s ready to throw down though and he clubs a guard in the head. A rumble breaks out and Juliet brains Don John. Even Iago gets in on the action and after they win the fight, beer and food for all.

Oh, and it turns out that Iago’s been serving Lady Macbeth this whole time because he, too, has been hypnotised by her gratuitously giant comic book boobs. (I mean just like Richard, not me. I don’t get hypnotised by cartoon boobs.)

Characters added: no one, but Don John is dead, which is a nice bonus!

Issue Seven: The Play’s The Thing

Courtesy – IDW Publishing

“[…]I’ll have grounds
More relative than this: the play ‘s the thing
Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.”

– Hamlet, II.ii

So Iago’s been using his own magic to Skype with Lady Macbeth who is totally willing to keep using the promise of her body to get stupid men to do stupid things. This isn’t like real life at all, guys.

It’s Twelfth Night in Shrewsbury (well, everywhere else in England too, I would imagine) and Juliet and company are convinced to stick around for a play staged by Feste and Sir Toby Belch. Or just plain Belch here.

Hamlet finally gets a clue and dances with Adriana but the dance is interrupted by the start of the play. Feste’s asking for an audience member to join them on stage.

Feste: “No, not you. No… Ah, Hamlet. Shadow King. You’ll do. Get your ass up here! Here’s a costume.”

Hamlet” What the hell am I supposed to do?”

Feste: “Oh, it’s just an old play called the Murder of King Hamlet. Errr, I mean,Gonzago. The murder of Gonzago. You get to be the murderer. Fun, right?”

Hamelt: “GAHHHHHHHH!” (Exit stage right, running and screaming)

Feste: “Was it something I said?”

Of course, the Murder of Gonzago mirrors the Mousetrap play in Hamlet. This one retells the story of the murder of Hamlet’s father by his brother Claudius. But the names are different so how did Hamlet figure it out? Must be because he’s always making everything about him.

So where does he end up when he runs off? In a crazy, trippy house of mirrors of course. Could there by some symbolism going on? Anyhow, Juliet’s worried about him so she runs off after him and discovers him going all emo again about his dad. So she confides in him about how her lover Romeo (I’ve heard that name before…) killed himself because he thought she was dead but she was just knocked out by some special totally creepy knock-out juice that made her sleep for 2 days.

Hey wait! I thought Juliet died in R&J? Yup. But she gets saved in this version just before she stabs herself and ends up leading the rebellion.

Then cue full-page image of Juliet and Hamlet on either sides of a wall, all Pyramus and Thisby style, talking through a wall and commiserating.

Characters added: Feste, Sir Toby Belch

Issue Eight: Journeys End in Lovers Meeting

Courtesy – IDW Publishing

“O mistress mine, where are you roaming?
O, stay and hear; your true love’s coming,
That can sing both high and low:
Trip no further, pretty sweeting;
Journeys end in lovers meeting,
Every wise man’s son doth know.”

– Twelfth Night, II.iii

Hamlet and the others run into Morton. (Not to be confused with this Morton.) He was discovered spying for the rebellion and just barely managed to escape. Falstaff’s had enough of Hamlet’s waffling and declares that it’s time to find Shakespeare and get all this shit fixed.

In the mean time, Iago and Othello are training the resistance militia. Iago is giving some advice on how to beat stronger opponents like Othello. Seems that some of the advice is doing a number on Othello who gets his butt whipped and then walks off. Iago’s doublespeak is starting to twist and turn him and Othello starts his own #guiltfest.

Didn’t he shaft Iago when he passed him over for a promotion? Maybe murdering his wife Desdemona was all his fault and not Iago’s? And maybe Othello’s just a cool blooded killer anyhow?

Hamlet’s standing on his balcony musing about this whole Shadow King stuff when Juliet calls down from below and then climbs up to him. Some more clever R&J reversal. And finally they make out! The next morning, Falstaff, Iago and Hamlet set out towards… somewhere, to find Shakespeare.

Remember how Lady Macbeth was holding the Black Guard in reserve? Yeah, well Richard kinda went behind her back and invited them and their leader Philip the Bastard to join him in fighting the rebels. Pwnd!

Iago and Falstaff are poking fun at Hamlet about this whole Juliet thing when they are accosted along the road by a bunch of well-armed and armoured paladins or holy warriors. They’re not really buying this Shadow King stuff so their leader steps forward and asks Hamlet to prove it.

Who’s their leader? Romeo Montague, much less dead that previously reported.

Oh snap!

Characters added: Philip the Bastard, Orsino, Romeo


What happens next? Well, I know but you should probably pick up the graphic novel to find out for yourself. But if you’re willing to wait, we’ll eventually tell you when we cover issues 9 through 12.

Enjoy, Brawlers!

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Biker Cymbeline a Real Drag

6 Nov The original title for Cymbeline was "Anarchy; Ride or Die." Not a bad title, but it couldn't have saved this film.

Daniel J. Rowe

Want to watch an excellent play full of life, energy, violence, intrigue, decapitation and romance and make it boring? No? Neither did I.

That’s why Cymbeline, the biker/cop adaptation of the Shakespeare play of same name that could have been oh-so-cool, was so disappointing.

How did this happen?

The idea for the film had everything you want in a Shakespearean adaptation: good play, good idea, good actors and nice set pieces, and yet, it failed in almost every respect.

A brief synopsis.

Directed byMichael Almereyda and starring Ed Harris (Cymbeline), Ethan Hawke (Iachimo), Milla Jovovich (the Queen), Penn Badgley (Posthumus) and Dakota Johnson (Imogen), the film centres on Cymbeline’s motorcycle club’s fight to get out from under the colonial weight of Rome (the cops).

Without getting into specific plot points, let’s just say there are fights, prodigal sons, almost rapes, poisoning, faked deaths, hide-and-go-seek games, and a chopped off head.

How did this film fail?

First, the delivery of lines.

Anyone not entirely sure what the term “vocal fry” means will have a definitive answer after watching this film. The cast, almost without exception, mumble, grumble and sometimes whisper their way through lines I guess in an attempt to make sure everyone knows they’re a tough sort used to rumbling through life. You know, like motorbikes. Sort of.

Vocal Fry:

In speech, a low, scratchy sound that occupies the vocal range below modal voice (the most commonly used vocal register in speech and singing). Also known as vocal fry register, creaky voice, pulse register, laryngealization, and glottal fry. (See Examples and Observations, below.)

David Crystal notes that American actor Vincent Price “produced excellent creaky voice in his especially menacing moments” (A Dictionary of Language, 2001).

I kind of hoped there would be a bit more energy to the characters. It’s not like there is not energy in the lines!

The film’s stars never seem to have any passion while speaking, and there is a good chance a few snoozes could be had while getting through the film.

All of the actors seem good fits for the roles. I mean Dan Humphrey on Gossip Girl is practically Posthumus, and wouldn’t you know it, Penn Badgley plays him. Just cut and past, and swap some dialogue. I won’t lie, when Dan and Serena van der Woodson broke up I stopped watching. Their love was just so real and perfect. Dangit TV! Why do you ruin everything. Then again, they might have got back together in the end. Maybe I should finish watching the series.

Where was I? Oh right. Shakespeare.

Imogen as well is lacking, but maybe I was spoiled by Lily Rabe’s stellar performance in the park this year. Johnson, however, is very drab.

And then there’s Iachimo, a very creepy and crazy character. I was expecting a lot out of Hawke given the quality of his performance in Hamlet. He was dull. I was sad.

Anton Yelchin as Cloten is perhaps the biggest disappointment. Cloten is one of Shakespeare’s most underrated characters. He can be buffoonishly funny, terrifyingly dangerous, or menacing depending on how you play him, and Yelchin is none of these.

The Queen is played by this woman, and has to be called out as a miss. She is on screen very little and given so few lines that it’s unclear what she did, why it mattered, and how her plot was foiled.

John Leguizamo‘s in it too, and adds another ‘guy who was cool in other Shakespeare play, but dull in this one’ credits to the film.

Argh. I know all of these actors are better than this, and I DEFINITELY know the play is better than this.

Second, direction.

This, I don’t understand. Almereyda did a kickass version of Hamlet in 2000, and the hope was that he’d be able to bring the same energy and style to one of Shakespeare’s weirdest and most interesting plays. He had the actors for it, but the film just didn’t wind up picking up any steam. It lacked energy and style, which is baffling as the concept had both.

Even the scenes of violence, confrontation and passion play out very low key. By the end, there is little impact when prodigal sons return, heads are lopped off or doting and devoted husbands prove their infidelity.

You want to see this play, and you want to see it done right, and Almereyda fails. This makes me sad.

Other things.

The constant scene and locale changes don’t help those trying to piece together what is actually a very complicated plot. It’s hard to connect with any of the characters when they get very short scenes, mumble their lines, and have no emotion be it humourous or dramatic.

The bikers aren’t that badass, and the cops don’t have the intimidating power due to Rome. The film is a miss, and, for someone who anticipated its release so much, discouraging.

It was original released as Anarchy, Ride or Die, which is a pretty dumb title and doesn’t really make any sense when you think about it. The story is more about controlling and asserting a state’s existence within an empire.

Please make another version of this play. It deserves it.

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Shakespeare in Pop Culture

5 Nov

Roslyn Willson contacted the Bard Brawl promoting a infographic that shows how much influence the bard has had on popular culture. Without further ado…

Shakespeare in Pop Culture
Source: SuperScholar.org

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Cymbeline in Central Park, a perfect summer night

2 Nov

Daniel J. Rowe

Oh dang. Watching American Horror Story Freak Show the other night, I realized, after seeing the always charming, chilling and a little bit creepy, Lily Rabe, that I had neglected to post the review I wrote in the summer of Cymbeline in which she starred. Twenty-eight lashes and three monologues of private lamentation later, I thought, why not just post it, and remember warm nights in the summer and brilliant productions of the bard. 

Here it is.

Photo before the performance. I obeyed the rules and put my phone away during.

Photo before the performance. I obeyed the rules and put my phone away during.

I have always, always, always wanted to see a play in Central Park, NYC. It’s one of those things all bard brawlers must do at some time, and, thanks to a lovely person from New Zealand, I got a couple of tickets. Oh, and I took a friend who had never been to a Shakespeare play before! So many lovely things right there.

(My friend Rene won the free tickets and gave them to me. Such a darling)

Boom. Bring on Cymbeline, an incredible play that I also saw last year at Bard on the Beach in Vancouver.

It was, simply put, great.

It is a great play to begin with full of craziness, funny stuff, pastoral, politics, history and a guy getting his head cut off. Always a nice touch.

The Public Theater production at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park centres on starred Lily Rabe of (as noted) as Imogen, and Hamish Linklater getting the double role of Posthumous and the scene-stealing Cloten.

First off, the opening of the play was great. Director Daniel Sullivan has those “turn off your phones” guys both welcome people, and thank sponsors (people actually clapped for the Bank of America. Weird). Then, the cast came out on stage and real audience members asked questions to get the crowd into the play, and, BANG, play starts. So smart. The effect was perfect. Everyone was laughing and ready to get set for what is a very strange and great play.

Rabe and Linklater were great.

Rabe has this incredible ability to be beautiful, and tragic, and funny, and weird all at once. A think I loved about her performance in Cymbeline was the way she moved. She didn’t do that predictable puffed out chest, “Victorian” stance that I seem to see so often in Shakespeare productions. She moved more hunched over and slinky, so, while she definitely commanded attention on stage, she also gave the character a bit of needed vulnerability.

Linklater was side-splitting hilarious as Cloten, as well as mopey, love-torn, romantic as Posthumous. A particularly incredible scene featuring both leads was the “Hark, hark the lark” song, Cloten serenades the girl who is “supposed” to love him! Why don’t you love Cloten?! It’s perfect.

Linklater even was able to make the particularly troubling speech about killing Posthumous and raping Imogen ridiculous and funny. He delivered the intense line with the false bravado of a 14-year-old spazz, and thus could be laughed at without feeling horrible that you’re laughing at some pretty gross stuff. Hey. Dark comedy is still comedy am I wrong?

Patrick Page was also great as Iachimo; full of energy, conniving spirit and all of that fun stuff. Actually, pretty much every cast member did their job and did it well.

The set was very well-built. Props for making sure it was whimsical, but not overbearing. A single circular platform that came up from the floor was the only moving part, which was effective and gave a nice throwback to the Elizabethan trapdoor trick.

Oh, and a racoon scurried onto the set during the production I went to. It was delightful, unplanned, and had nothing to do with the play, but, hey, animals should always get a nod if they happen to show up. I’m pretty sure the racoon just wanted to catch a bit of the play. Why wouldn’t he?

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The Comedy of Errors with a Steampunk Twist, a Bard on the Beach miracle

13 Aug Logo
With Bard on the Beach in full swing during a sweltering Vancouver summer, Director Scott Bellis has taken Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors and given it the gears and gadgets of the Steampunk genre.
 I know what you’re thinking, “Steampunk? Was that not a thing a decade ago? I mean, how can you add to the genre when Will Smith’s Wild Wild West filled the cup full?”
Well said and I did think the same going into the main stage on Vancouver’s beautiful Vanier Park looking out over English Bay. How many times have we seen a kind of kitschy genre played out once too many much to the audience’s chagrin?
Comedy of Errors3

Photo credits – David Blue

Yet Scott Bellis and the Bard on the Beach cast delivered a delightfully entertaining performance using the Steampunk back drop to add colourful characters behind the scenes and flashy special effects right in the audience’s faces.

The widgets, levers and wire-rimmed glasses worked in and around Shakespearean forms of love, hate, jealousy, misdirection and slap stick found in his comedies.  The stage lighting tricks and quirky use of the monstrous Nurse, did nothing to take away from the fun of the mistaken identities and the foibles the followed.  It was not a nauseating ride through the planet’s core filled with distracting gooberfish  and the bigger fish that eat the gooberfish. It was a laugh fest coloured with smoke and lightening thanks to the design team including Pam Johnson (Scenery), Gerald King (Lighting), Malcolm Dow (Sound).
Comedy of Errors

Antipholus and Dromio take centre stage.

The play begins with the aging Egeon (Scott Bellis) from Syracuse thrown before the Duke of Ephesus and sentenced to death simply for being a Syracusian.  Sounds about right. Pleading for his life, Egeon tells his tragic tale of loss and how he came to be in Ephesus.  Many years ago on a voyage at sea a terrible storm separated Egeon from his wife and son leaving him with his other twin son and twin servant. Yep. All believable so far. Both children were called Antipholus and the servants Dromio and when Egeon’s remaining son left for Ephesus and failed to return, he has been on a decade long search for him.  The ever so generous Duke is moved by Egeon’s tale and grants a stay of execution granting him one day to come up with money for bail proving that all politicians are motivated by the promise of monetary reward (how can one not be cynical in these electoral times).

Comedy of Errors2

Antipholus berates his servant Dromio

Meanwhile across town, Antipholus of Syracuse (Ben Elliott) and his servant Dromio (Luisa Jojic) have come ashore unaware that they have stumbled upon the home town of their twin brothers Antipholus of Ephesus (Jay Hindle) and Dromio (Dawn Petten). In the ensuing confusion created by mistaken identity schtick that Shakespeare does so well, the antics of the Dromios and Antipholi drives the energy and comedy of the play right to the closing curtain.  Hats off to Elliott and Hindle as they are thrown this way and that and even more so to Jojic and Petten who were spectacular in making the horrors of slave ownership and abuse quite funny as they were slap sticked around the stage. Hmmm. Feels wrong.

Costume designer Mara Gottler deserves kudos for capturing the feel of Steampunk especially with the minor characters nefarious Dr. Pinch, the mysterious Abbess and the monstrous Nurse Poppy. The iron gears and twisting metal made for a darker backdrop to the play and added a mysterious element juxtaposing the comedic performances in the foreground. Gottler does well by taking the darker science fiction/fantasy look and decorating the characters with horned rimmed glasses, old aviator helmets and trench coats.
When mixed with the sights and sounds of the stage crew, Bard on the Beach delivers a production of The Comedy of Errors that is a unique and wild and fun and a show that demonstrates how this company continues to keep Shakespeare alive in Vancouver.

Bard on the Beach

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Repercussion Theatre’s Twelfth Night, Directed by Amanda Kelloc

20 Jul
Repercussion Theatre`s Twelfth Night

Repercussion Theatre`s Twelfth Night

Eric Jean

Sitting in Westmount park (with copies of Twelfth Night in-hand to follow along, of course), Brawlers Celeste Lee and Daniel J.Rowe wondered aloud if Repercussion Theatre’s new director Amanda Kelloc knew what she was doing when she chose to present Bard Brawl – Twelfth Night, Act I to V, a Christmas play (!), in the middle of Montreal heat wave.

Did she even know it was a Christmas play? Yeah, I’m sure she knows. She seems like a smart woman and she didn’t edit out Sir Toby Belch’s song in II.3. which starts, “[Sings] ‘O, the twelfth day of December.” She knows what she’s doing, and I think she’s pretty clever, too.

So how the hell does a Christmas play work for Midsummer weather?

Well, Twelfth Night is actually the name of a Christian holiday which corresponds to the 12 days following Christmas, ending on January 6th with the Feast of the Epiphany. And how do you celebrate Twelfth Night? You drink and eat a lot, make fun of your betters, and generally the social order gets turned upside down while everybody cuts loose. Like many Christian traditions that the Church would like to claim were wholly original, this one’s actually Roman.

Yep. The Romans had this thing called Saturnalia, which took place over several days in – you guessed it! – December! They even elected this King of the Saturnalia who could order people to make out with their boss, or to pirouette in Buckingham palace, or whatever.

It’s a good gig if you can get it.

(Little sidebar: Sir Toby’s song makes sense. Seems that there was a time when Twelfth Night started 13 days before Christmas and then ended on Christmas. Trust me.)

See how it makes sense now? It’s entirely in keeping with the spirit of misrule in Twelfth Night to turn Twelfth Night from a Christmas play into a Midsummer play.

And in that same spirit, we decided to stash our monogrammed copies of the Complete Works into our bags and just watch the show.

Now that this bit of business is done, what did I actually think of the play?

In contrast to last summer’s wild, over-the-top, gut-splitting history play mash-up Harry the King, Kelloc’s Twelfth Night is a much more traditional staging of Twelfth Night.

The whole play takes place on the same simple set representing Olivia’s garden where Sir Toby Belch, Andrew Aguecheek and Maria spy on Malvolio as he reads the letter he thinks is from Olivia and which will lead him to prance around on-stage wearing ridiculous cross-gartered yellow stockings.

And thank God. I’ve seen to many plays with spinning box sets that seems less about the drama and more like a platform for some set designer to show off just how many locations they can cram into a two hour play. Especially given the outdoor venue, I really appreciated that the set itself depicted an outdoor locale

The only set alteration – which not only makes a lot of sense but also recalls the trap door ‘pit’ built into Elizabethan playhouses – is a kind of barred dungeon window behind which Malvolio stands while everyone thinks he’s gone nuts.

A nice touch.

Performances were generally good, though those of the miscreant Belch and company by far eclipsed those of the play’s courtly characters like Orsino and Viola. In defence of Orsino and co., however, Shakespeare didn’t always give them a whole lot to work with in Twelfth Night.

The stand-out performances to me were Sir Toby Belch (Matthew Kabwe) and Malvolio (Paul Rainville).

Kabwe’s physicality and boundless energy really brought the character of Twelfth Night’s de facto Lord of Misrule to life. (Almost as good as our own Jay Reid, but I digress.)

The synergy between Belch and Aguecheek (Adam Capriolo) was excellent, as was the decision to represent Andrew Aguecheek as a kind of effeminate hipster poseur. Letitia Brooke‘s initially reluctant Maria fit right in with the two other pranksters.

Rainville’s Malvolio was equally memorable for his stern, quasi-Puritanical high-mindedness as well as his cocksure yellow-stocking prancing. As much as you wanted to hate Malvolio for being a killjoy, you really felt bad for him by the end of the play.

Viola (Emelia Hellman) as well was well-acted and well cast, though I felt that she did not stand out as much as Malvolio and Belch.

The character of Feste (Gitanjali Jain)was portrayed as a jack-of-all-trades entertainer: singer, musician, and acrobat. Jain accompanied herself on the guitar as she sang Feste’s many songs. While she sang and played well, and the live, acoustic musical performance lent an air of spontaneity to Feste’s fooling, I felt at times that the songs were just a little too long. Rather than feed the ribald energy of the scene, they sometimes took away from it.

To me, Olivia (Rachel Mutombo) seemed the weakest of the cast members. Olivia is a melancholy character, still in mourning over the death of her brother. However, none of this melancholy came through in her performance which was rather one-note.

Orsino (Mike Payette) delivered an honest performances though it was not particularly noteworthy. Jesse Nerenberg and Darragh Kilkenny-Mondoux, as Sebastian and Antonio, respectively, both did well in their supporting roles.

On the whole, Repercussion’s 2015 edition of Shakespeare in the Park is an enjoyable if relatively conservative staging of Twelfth Night. While not without its flaws, it nevertheless makes for an entertaining evening in the park. I recommend grabbing a blanket, a few drinks, and catching Twelfth Night while you have the chance.

Twelfth Night runs until July 26th. Click here to see locations and show times.


Act I, scene iii; Mad King.

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Let’s read a comic and kill us some Shakespeare

18 Jul Courtesy - IDW Publishing

Daniel J. Rowe

Sometimes, the title just makes you want to grab the book. I feel like there are few titles less tempting than IDW Publishing‘s comic series Kill Shakespeare.

I mean, dang, it’s called Kill Shakespeare!

Even the haters got to like that one.

I know for a fact, the true brawlers will like the series created and written by Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col. We’ll wait for Eric’s review of the next four issues to find out for sure, but I’d put smart money on him liking it. We’re going to break the series down by issues of four, and we’re reading out of the slick “Backstage Edition,” which is a finely packaged piece in itself.

Props to the art by Andy Belanger, and the covers by Kagan McLeod.

Issue one: A Sea of Troubles

Courtesy - IDW Publishing

Courtesy – IDW Publishing

“Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,

and by opposing end them.”

– Hamlet, III,i

In issue one we’re introduced to the Shadow King, Hamlet (naturally), who is shipwrecked and washes up on the shore of Richard III’s kingdom that he rules with MacBeth (well, more like Lady MacBeth). I’m going to try to stay away from plot points, as I would rather not ruin the joy of getting introduced to the various Shakespearean characters in new and fun ways. And, no, I’m not talking about them being cast as steam punk robots or high school sweethearts. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that).

The series starts well. There’s a shipwreck, a ghost, good art (the panels with the swords coming out of the water are great), comic-style voice over, pirates, mystery and magic.

The first issue gets you hooked in, and a classic line to end. It establishes that these are Shakespearean characters, but this is a different world.

The idea of Hamlet having to kill Shakespeare to bring his father back to life is a nice touch.

Bonus about the backstage edition: there are character and line descriptors at the end of each issue giving those without an encyclopedic knowledge of characters a taste of the original text.

Characters introduced: Hamlet, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern, Richard III, the Witches, Lady Macbeth

Issue two: Something Wicked This Way Comes

Courtesy - IDW Publishing

Courtesy – IDW Publishing

“By the pricking of my thumbs

Something wicked this way comes”

– Macbeth, IV,i

Enter Ratcliff, and others, as well, as new locales, new intrigue and more about this civil war between RIII and Juliet. Tell me I just didn’t sell you on that last sentence. What’s nice about the series is that characters come into play in different ways. Sometimes, they just show up, and sometimes they’re alluded to previously.

Iago shows up, and is very well written. We all know he’s evil, but we only know that because we’ve seen Othello. What if he’s part of a story that includes other cruel and conniving characters like R III and Lady Macbeth? How does he fit?

Read a find out.

Also, we have the introductions of the “prodigals of Shakespeare” adding a lovely touch of superstitious masses mixed with nerds that obviously really love the bard. Hmmm. Do I know any of those types?

The writers do a clever thing where they add Shakespearean lines or scenes into different situations. Richard III does his best Cornwall impression and takes some poor guy’s eyes out, while Iago ironically delivers the gem, “keep up your bright swords… or blood shall rust them” riffing on my favourite of Othello’s catchphrases.

Characters added: Ratcliffe, Iago, Falstaff (naturally), Tamora, Angelo, and Hastings.

Issue three: The Fool Doth Think He is Wise

Courtesy - IDW Publishing

Courtesy – IDW Publishing

“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wis man knows himself to be a fool,”

– As You Like It, V,i

Alright nerds. Get ready for some boobs. It’s a sad fact about comic books that they focus particular attention to the vivacious curves of the well-endowed, and Kill Shakespeare is, unfortunately, no exception.

Yes, I like boobs like the best of them, but I mean come on. Every female character in a comic book does not have to have huge knockers no matter if they are the Merry Wives of Windsor or Lady MacBeth.

Ok. Rant done. Feminist inside of me argued for.

The Fallstaff/Hamlet scenes that take up a few pages in this issue are very fun, and one of those great ‘what ifs’ of Shakespeare. What if Fallstaff’s bombast was paired with Hamlet’s melancholy. A great what if answered in issue three. Also, what if Richard III and Macbeth were sitting at a table together? Answered.

Puck (Robin Goodfellow) shows up and his design is great. This is what makes comics fun: no reliance on human actors.

I should give a belated shoutout to colourist Ian Herring. His work stands out in the comic series.

And, dang, if Connor McCreery and Anthony Del Col go right into Poe-land, where Christopher Moore did in The Serpent of Venice. It’s a killer ending, and I won’t ruin it. I will, however, point out that Moore’s book came first. I’m not saying the idea was stolen, or that it doesn’t work every time, but still…


Characters added: Macbeth, Puck, Titus (referenced), Olivia


Issue Four: So Wise, So Young, Never Do Live Long

Courtesy - IDW Publishing

Courtesy – IDW Publishing

“So wise so young, they say, do never live long,”

– Richard III,i

Great first page. Well drawn, well coloured and well executed.

Nothing makes a comic hum like a great first page.

The continuation of cross-dressing from issue three is a nice add to the story, as you can’t have Shakespeare without a little Gender Bending. Hey ho. Have you bought your copy of ‘Zounds! yet? I don’t know why I just thought of that. Hmmmmm. Click here.

Again, the writers are careful to hold characters back, so that we get humdingers like in issue four when probably the best ‘what if’ turns up when Juliet is paired with Othello. Yes! Can’t say I don’t dig that. Oh, and see how Juliet is designed? More of that.

Also, the weaselly Parolles is a great addition, as is Nerissa.

This is the first look at the other side of the civil war (although I feel like there may be more than just two sides). Much of the issue is build up with a very well-done payoff in the end. The close ups of Othello and Don John are nice, and when Othello lays eyes on Iago, even better. It’s an amazingly designed page with all the passion and emotion one would expect from the two if they were to see each other after the play Othello is finished.

There’s a reason why Othello is one of the Bard Brawl’s favourites. The characters from that play always add a huge chunk of amazing.

Characters added: Juliet, Othello, Parolles, Nerissa, Robert Shallow, Don John

Come back next time when Eric continues with issues five through eight of Kill Shakespeare.

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A time when whistling dance routines and blackface meet the bard

27 Jun artoff1702

Daniel J. Rowe

Whistling, snapping, switchblade fights, pastel sweaters, slacks, gelled hair, soda pop shops, black faced Puerto Ricans and a bunch of teenage thugs singing. Yep. We must be talking about the most famous adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet: West Side Story (insert whistle riff).

Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise’s 1961 film version of the musical is full of colour (Technicolor even), long panning shots, clean and arm-swingy choreography, bright blue eyes, and everyone’s favourite feature of 60s era film with racially specific characters: face paint.

No, not this face paint.

It’s the kind of makeup choice that just makes you want to ask, ‘why oh why didn’t you just hire an actual Puerto Rican actor?’

So it goes. It was 1961. It won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Face paint aside, we brawlers have to ask: is West Side Story a well done adaptation of Shakespeare’s most misunderstood love story? That being done, you have have to ask if this movie is very good, and if it is something that sustains the test of time.

Does it?

It is actually a very fun movie, and the directors are clever with their choices of shots, colours, characters, sets and style. The deep zooms, pans, close ups, and trick where one character is in focus while everything else is blurry are all very nice. The movie is colourful and crisp and clean and always nice to look at.

Now, if you do not like musicals, you will not like this movie. I go through times where I really don’t like the Leonard Bernstein scores, and then I hear a tune in the car on the radio, and can’t help but turn it up. In the end, I think I will submit, suck it up, and say that I do like the songs.

The acting is overall pretty good. Richard Beymer (Tony) is the… Wait a second. Is that Benjamin Horn from Twin Peaks? Yes it is. And is Riff Dr. Lawrence Jacoby? Indeed he is.

Allow me to indulge for a second.

Man that show’s fun.

I wonder if Shakespeare would like Twin Peaks? I wonder if he would like West Side Story?

I want to say yes and maybe.

The thing that hurts the musical is the romantic and idealized love story – that is in R&J – with no hints at the irresponsibility of the teenaged characters. As discussed in some legendary Bard Brawl podcasts, Romeo and Juliet is full of lines and situations that suggest the romance is nothing but an irresponsible romp by two hearts that are bigger than brains of teens who fall hard and fast with tragic consequences.

Ok. Rant done.

I will say those Tony – Maria songs are borderline unwatchable. You know that’s not even Benjamin Horne singing? Weird. It hurts me to say that Maria (the lovely and late Natalie Wood) is my least favourite pieces to the film.

As for the rest of the ladies, I d0 like Anita (Rita Morena). Hey! An actual Puerto Rican! And if you’re asking if that’s Sister Peter Marie Reimondo from Oz, you are correct. I wonder if Shakespeare would like Oz. I have to say a definitive yes on that one. Tobias Beecher. Classic Shakespearean character if I’ve seen one.

One more thing.

How the H did George Chakiris (who’s Greek by the way) win the Best Supporting Actor oscar over George C. Scott and Jackie Gleason in the Hustler? I don’t want to say Bernardo deserved that knife in the gut, but come on! Never trust awards shows.

Now was this a good adaptation? I’m going to go with a reserved yes. Is is a good film? yes. Does it hold up over time? Reserved yes.

In the end, there are problems with West Side Story. But I can’t say I hate it. I appreciate the adaptation of Shakespeare in such an interesting way, but wish it were a touch tougher.

Oh, and there’s no way people should be playing basketball in jeans!

Stay in Touch Brawlers!

Act I, scene iii; Mad King.

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A lesson on bard basics courtesy of Muse of Fire

26 May MV5BMTM0NDE3NjUyMl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTQ5NDk4Nw@@._V1_SX214_AL_

Daniel J. Rowe

Two dudes self-fund a documentary to discover one thing:

Why are people scared of Shakespeare?

“Because it’s hard to read,” says one girl in that sing songy teenage voice we all love so much. Yes. Shakespeare’s hard.

Muse of Fire stars actors Dan Poole and Giles Terera, who really, really want you to know that they’re a) actors and b) like Shakespeare. I think. At least they’re interested in Shakespeare.

The two grew up in the 80s “watching Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Batman and Robin.” Wait a second. Batman and Robin? The only Batman I can think of from the 80s was Michael Keaton’s in 1989, and there was sure as shit no Robin in that one. Oh well. I get what they’re saying.

Muse of Fire is pretty good. Kind of like a poor man’s Looking for Richard. It’s funny and explores why Shakespeare is so unapproachable and taught so horribly so often. It also gives a nice glimpse of why the bard is so great. I.E. when Gandalf reads Romeo and Juliet. Now that’s a pleasure to any of the senses.

It’s a perfect for secondary school students. Find a copy, show it and sit back and enjoy teachers of English. The show will do your work for you.

*If you click this link, you can watch the full interviews with those found in the film.

The two actors start with “the good, the bard and the ugly,” and trot around asking actors of varying levels of prestige why the language is so difficult. Almost all of them from Ewan McGregor to the guy who plays Gareth in the Office to Gandalf, errr, I mean Magneto, sorry, I mean Sir Ian McKellan say that Shakespearean language is hard, but you just have to do it; more or less.

Almost all the interviewees recall horror stories of being taught Shakespeare in school and hating it, but, later in life when they’re all grown up, can appreciate it. I think most people can appreciate that sentiment.

Then there are these kids at Shakespeare camp (where the Hamlet was Shakespeare camp when I was a kid?!) who are acting it out, and seem to be having real fun. See. Even kids like it.

The best part of Muse of Fire are the interviewees and there are a lot of them. Dame Judi Dench is a particularly incredible interview, as are the ones mentioned above.

The two dudes then set off for Denmark to catch Jude Law in Hamlet.

Hamlet, in Denmark with Jude Law?! Very jealous.

Law’s interview is predictably great, and he says one line that touched this brawler’s heart very fondly.

“In the end, you just have to say it,” says Law.

Yes you do. Welcome to the Bard Brawl Mr. Law. We’ll see you next week.

“It’s so rich. You have no chance to think that you can get everything every night in the language, but what you can get is a sense of journey emotionally through that scale of writing,” he goes on.

Law talks about Hamlet shifting depending on the actor, time, audience and any other number of variables. Amazing. This is why those, ‘this is how Shakespeare wanted it’ types are a tad bothersome and always produce the show in “period” English. Oh, and those types are always a treat to have in class with you.

“Your responsibility is to that audience and to that production, not 400 years of incredible actors who have played him before,” Law says.

Well said.

Much like Pacino’s documentary, the filmmakers take a jaunt into the wonderful world of the iambic pentameter that, if you didn’t know what it was already, probably skipped a few classes in high school or were at the back of the class working on your fantasy football team. It’s just one of those things you should all know.

iambic pentameter


a common meter in poetry consisting of an unrhymed line with five feet oraccents, each foot containing an unaccented syllable and an accentedsyllable

Word Origin

French iambique ‘of a foot or verse’ and Greek pentameter ‘measure offive’

Oh, and just like in Pacino’s film, they put a team of actors together to go through some of the language.

And, just like Pacino, the people on the film give the Duh-dum, duh-dum, duh-dum, duh-dum, duh-dum explanation of the term.

Hmmm, seems like they might want to have mentioned the Pacino film maybe once. I’ll help you out boys: Looking for Richard.

Throughout the documentary, the two actors love shooting themselves doing their “everyday things,” which is less interesting that the subject at hand.

No one cares how struggling actors spend their days boys. Move it along.

Then there’s the Wizard of Baz part…

Now, Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet is a lot of fun, and a great gateway production to get kids into the bard, but the weird scene of Poole and Terara fawning over the DVD copy in the bookstore is kind of odd. They interview Luhrmann which is fine, but we already saw interviews with Gandalf, Jude Law, Judi Dench, Obi-Wan Kenobi and a bunch of other amazing people, so the director of Strictly Ballroom is less than it could be. Does he really have more to add than Alan Cumming (an interview the filmmakers barely used by the way)?

I shouldn’t be harsh though. Muse of Fire is fun, and nice at moments, and, like stated, is perfect for a classroom.

It’s always fun to see the greats talk about what the bard means to them, and even better when they read the words.

That, and the Bard Brawl would gladly welcome the budding actors into our ranks should they choose to join and give their thoughts.

Stay in Touch Brawlers!


Act I, scene iii; Mad King.

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BB: Titus Andronicus, Act IV

22 May

(Podcast recorded and produced by Daniel J. Rowe, blog written and edited by Eric Jean)

Welcome back Brawlers to the Rrated slasher film that is Titus Andronicus! This week? Act IV. Because that’s the act that comes after III.

Listen to or download the podcast.

Before we get started though, big congratulations to Bard Brawler Niki Lambros who got to walk across the stage in hooded medieval monk wear to pick up her shiny new Masters diploma!

Here she is looking great and about to make her hasty getaway to meat and booze!

Niki Graduation

Bard Brawler co-captain Eric Jean (why, that’s me!) was also invited to show but went to work instead and skipped right to the drinking afterwards.

See? Niki and I are both on the same list!

masters grad

(Feel free to keep calling me the Master of the English Renaissance, Daniel but remember to capitalise that ‘M’ now.)

Alright. So act IV.

You’d think Shakespeare is running out of people to kill, rape and/or mutilate but don’t worry! The fun’s not about to stop now. (Although – and I’m just throwing this out there, Bill – maybe it should. Just a thought.)

Remember Lavinia? Right. She’s got no hands and her tongue was cut out so she couldn’t rat out her rapists, Chiron and Demetrius. Lavinia pointing to a copy of Ovid’s rape-filled Metamorphoses though finally gave someone the bright idea that she might be able to write that out in the dirt by holding a stick in her mouth and guiding it with her arms.

Now that they know who to kill, it’s time for some revenge!

In scene 2 Titus sends Young Lucius over to Demetrius and Chiron to deliver some weapons with a note in Latin. They don’t really get the message but Aaron does and realises that Titus is on to them. Before they can do anything though they hear trumpets sounding which means that Tamora just gave birth to what was supposed to be Saturninus’ son.

Good for him. Except that the nurse rushes in and the kid’s black, which is a bit of a problem for Aaron.

No worries though because Tamora figures they can just kill the baby and then all’s good. Aaron agrees but as soon as he has the kid he decides he’s not going through with it. Instead, he’s going to replace the baby with some other Goth couple’s white baby while they raise his black baby.

Then he kills the nurse so she can’t say anything about it.

Smart. He clearly has everything under control.

Meanwhile, Titus and his allies meet with Marcus and Lucius who fled from Rome and are back now with a sweet Goth army who are mad as hell! They decide that they’ll literally send Saturninus a message by shooting a bunch of arrows with messages from the gods right into the court.

And then, as all great conspirators have done since time immemorial, they recruit a passing clown with a few pigeons to deliver the final message of ‘We’re coming for your ass!’ right to the Emperor for them.

So they of course kill the messenger. Greedy clowns just can’t catch a break, I guess.

It’s just at this moment that a messenger shows up to tell them that a giant Goth army is about to kill Rome and that it’s being led by Titus’ son Lucius who’s crazy popular in Rome. Saturninus starts panicking but Tamora has a cunning plan: she’ll talk Titus down and then he’ll talk Lucius down.

Guess no one bothered to tell her that Titus knows that she helped her sons rape his daughter.

I’m sure he’ll be reasonable.

Stay tuned for the dramatic conclusion! My gut (and the fact that I’ve read this before) tells me that this act V might be particularly delectable.

Also, welcome back to the pod legendary sonneteer and LA Kings fan Zoey Baldwin with sonnet 56!

Act I, scene iii; Mad King.

Check out the amazing writers and artists in ‘Zounds! 

Mad King, now available. Click the button and let 'Zounds! be yours.

 Stay in Touch Brawlers!

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