Language, colonialism and sword fighting vibrance in All’s Well That Ends Well

Bard on the Beach’s All’s Well That Ends Well takes the audience back to post Second World War India and the lead up to Indian independance. (Edmund Stapleton & Sarena Parmar; photo: Tim Matheson)

 

 

 

Kathleen Rowe

All’s Well That Ends Well, a ‘problem play’, as it is often described, does not fit easily into any classification.

Bard on the Beach‘s 2019 production is set in 1946/47 India and leading up to independence from English rule, which were indeed problematic times for the country. There are moments of comedy, but also tragedy and civil unrest.

Issues of colonization, privilege, identity, culture, race and gender are evident in the production, and sometimes uncomfortable to watch.

The production starts with a very British feel both in the sets and costumes, but moves into the colourful, warm and vibrant Indian culture as the play progresses.

The second half starts with beautiful colour, dance and music and thoroughly livens up the atmosphere.

What starts in cold Britain travels to vibrant and colourful Indian in BOB’s All’s Well. The sword fighting scenes are awesome. (Photo: Tim Matheson)

Why Helena (Sarena Parmar) would love Bertram (Edmund Stapleton) when he is such a pompous British snob and doesn’t want to marry her because she is beneath his station is not quite believable. Then again, she wouldn’t be the first girl to fall for a dud if we’re being honest. That said, I was not fully convinced even at the end when Helena reveals herself to Bertram.

The use of a second language (Hindi and Urdu) without interpretations was tough to comprehend for those, like this reviewer, who didn’t understand. Props to BOB for acknowledging, however, the large southeast Asian population in Vancouver and giving those so often left out of Shakespearean productions a prominent space in the play. Some audience members were enjoying the dialogue, but it was lost on those who only understand English, and Shakespeare’s English at that!

The scenes in Hindi and Urdu were lost on those audience members, but it was a bold and exciting choice, and credit to the producers for acknowledging the west coast’s large and vibrant southeast Asian population. (Photo: Tim Matheson)

Co-directors Rohit Chokhani and Johnna Wright have taken a bold approach in this adaptation of All’s Well that Ends Well.

The sword fight and dancing are highlights of the production and give life and energy to the stodgy British actors.

The subplot with Bertram’s companion Parolles (Jeff Gladstone) does not seem to fit with the rest of the play and reflects badly on Bertram’s lack of charisma. I just didn’t see where he fit in.

The play ends with Indian and Pakistani flags unfurled and the fighting continues with Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs brawling. Another mess left by the British Empire.

The play, for its complicated language and sometimes confusing subplots, is unique and still one worth seeing. I continue to commend BOB for always making the plays interesting and relevant. They never fail to take a chance, and should always be checked out.

BOB’s production of All’s Well That Ends Well takes a series of chances, and captures the essence of British colonialism and the mess it left in India. (Photo: Tim Matheson)

Summer is here, time to catch some Shakespeare

Daniel J. Rowe

The sun is shining for the most part, and that must mean the thespians are out and about ready to put together the various productions of Bard on the Beach, Shakespeare in the Park, Willy in the Parking Lot or Bill under the stars. Okay, those last two I made up, and you might not want to go if someone invites you to them until you’ve checked that they are in fact productions of William Shakespeare, playwright (maybe?), actor and producer.

Here are a few that the Brawlers have either attended in the past, or ones we think you might like.

Bard on the Beach, Vancouver BC

Bard on the Beach is one of my favourites of them all. It’s the first festival I made a point of going to when I lived in Vancouver, and it’s one I’ve seen about 20 or so plays at. The crews out at Vanier Park always do a very good job with their productions and rarely have I left thinking it a bad idea I caught the play.

This year, they’ve got Western-style Taming of the Shrew, All’s Well That Ends Well in India, and dang if they aren’t doing a Bard Brawl favourite and putting on a gender-bending version of Coriolanus. Dang. Of all the years I’m not going back west.

BOB is also putting on one of the Bard Brawl’s favourite Shakespeare-themed movies in theatre form in Shakespeare in Love, so double dang that I won’t be out west this year.

Look forward to Bard Brawl reviews of as many of these fine plays as we can get a reviewer to the beach for.

Repercussion Theatre, Montreal

Amanda Kellock is directing this year’s set of free Shakespeare in the Park productions of Measure for Measure this year, and the Bard Brawlers will for sure be in on this one.

Repercussion did a great job with gender-bending R&J last year pushing the quality of the play to feature a lesbian love affair between the titular characters, which worked perfectly and was thoroughly enjoyed, and I’m excited they picked M4M to do this year. It’s a great play, and I get all nerd pumped whenever a company does a less well-known play.

Plays start July 11, so find a park near you and go go go.

Canadian Stage, Shakespeare in High Park, Toronto

If Raptors fans ever come down from their collective high and decide they want to do something with their summer aside from sitting in Jurassic Park crying with joy, check out a couple of gems from the Shakespeare in High Park festival.

Like Montreal, TO, the Six, Drakeville or whatever you’re calling it these days, is putting on M4M and also doing one of the top comedies in the cannon: Much Ado About Nothing.

Plays start July 4

Shakespeare in the Ruff, Withrow Park, Toronto

This could be fun. Shakespeare in the Ruff is putting on a Winter’s Tale this year, which is a pretty awesome play, but also a very tricky one to pull off.

There’s a bear, there are sheep and there’s a pretty epic ending on this one, so you might want to bring a picnic and check it out.

Plays start August 14.

Public Theatre, Shakespeare in Central Park, NYC

Dang again. Public Theatre is putting on, yep, Coriolanus. This I may need to make a special trip down to Manhattan to check out.

That starts in July, and Much Ado About Nothing is entering its final week.

Central Park is a pretty awesome place to check out the bard, and this bard brawler loved the version of Cymbeline they put on a few years ago.

You can get tickets via lottery for these or book well in advance. It’s worth it either way.

Shakespeare Kelowna, Kelowna, BC

And just to ensure that one play is being put on in the completely wrong time of year, Shakespeare Kelowna decided to stage the Christmas production Twelfth Night this summer.

The idea that this play is a Christmas play has lost all relevance, so the purists can just settle down at this point.

Jokes aside, this can be one of the funniest plays of them all if done right, and will be a delight for those people in the Okanagan up for a night at the Spearhead Winery.

Locale on this one can’t be beat, so get a ticket and check it out.

Productions start July 17.

If there are any other Shakespeare productions you feel the brawlers would enjoy, send us an email or message us on Facebook anytime.

Enjoy the sun, enjoy the Shakespeare.

Summer’s lease hath all too short a date.

Sonnet 18

Something wicked comes to the beach

Bard on the Beach’s Macbeth is one for the purists, and one that blends quality performances with simple but stylish design choices; all a bard lover ever wants in the end. (Photo: Tim Matheson)

Daniel J. Rowe

While there are no gripes here about modern interpretations, different takes and whimsically inspired remakes of Shakespeare plays, there is something entirely satisfying about straight up productions.

“Something wicked this way comes.”

Take the meandering path to the Bard on the Beach tents at Vanier Park, and enter the witches brew of all tragedies found deep in the bogs of Scotland: Macbeth is on, the Scottish play, and you should check it out.

Director Chris Abraham went straight up performance and passion for this take on the bloody and brooding play, and it’s pulled off to great effect.

Casting is on point with Ben Carlson (Macbeth) nicely balancing madness, ambition, regret and power alongside the equally ambitious, unstable and ultimately tragic Lady Macbeth, played with skill and style by Moya O’Connell.

I took my 12-year-old nephew to the play hoping he would get a kick out of some live theatre, while at the same time being a bit nervous he would find it scary or disturbing. I don’t have kids, so never really know what parents think about these things. Oh well. He came. He loved it.

Note: take your kids to Shakespeare plays. They will enjoy.

Things needed to make the Scottish play work well: quality lead couple, cool witches, good choreography, believable death scenes, and a severed head if you have it. This one had them all. Well done.

Harveen Sandhu, Emma Slipp & Kate Besworth add what quality witches need to add for Macbeth to work. (Photo, Tim Matheson)

Though I’ve read and seen the play multiple times (including one unfortunate production in high school that left me feeling very sad for the actors, who my brat classmates kept mocking aloud), Abraham’s staging and the performances kept me on the edge of my seat hoping, hoping, hoping against what I knew that certain decisions were not made that way. It’s such a great play.

Of course no amount of stage style matters in this play if the two leads don’t have chemistry. O’Connell and Carlson embrace the challenge. They are ravenous for each other as they desperately cling to each other and their power with tragic passion.

BOB has extended this play through September. Don’t wait for tomorrow, tomorrow and tomorrow to see it or it shall be gone in a brief shadow.

The chemistry between Ben Carlson and Maya O’Connell is palpable and passionate, making the consequences of their ambition that much more real. (Photo, Tim Matheson)

Once again, it’s a great play. Go see it.

 

Hamlet ditched Lysistrata stitched and pitched

Luisa Jojic’s Lysistrata leads the revolution with Quelemia Sparrow, as ancient Greek comedy informs contemporary politics and Indigenous reminder of land and tradition.  (Photo: Tim Matheson)

Daniel J. Rowe

The play is Hamlet.

The play is, now, Lysistrata by Aristophanes at Bard on the Beach in Vanier Park Sen̓áḵw:, a village remembered well by the Coast Salish people of the west coast and everyone who went to BOB’s only non-Shakespeare play of 2018.

The set up is such: bard on the beachers are getting ready to put on Hamlet, and, much to Colleen Wheeler‘s dismay, opt for Lysistrata instead, as Hamlet in all his meandering thoughts is a man who does nothing, while Lysistrata and her band of Grecian sisters cause a revolt.

Why?

Because the city is rezoning the traditional Sen̓áḵw: village area (now Vanier Park) for a shipping terminal. Continue reading “Hamlet ditched Lysistrata stitched and pitched”

Tour de force Timon thumps on theatre two

Timon of Athens is one of the finest plays in the cannon, and props to Bard on the Beach for their edgy and totally relevant take on the tale of sycophantic greed and soulless friendship.

Daniel J. Rowe

“Timon was amazing,” I wrote to Bard Brawl co-captain Eric Jean after seeing Bard on the Beach‘s production of Timon of Athens.

“Jealous as hell,” Eric responded.

When I saw BOB was putting on Timon, I knew it was number one on my list of plays I wanted to check out this summer. BOB introduced me to Timon in 2007, and it immediately became one of my favourite plays in the cannon. The Bard Brawl recorded a five-part podcast series on the play, and I put a Timon-themed photography and drawing essay together for ‘Zounds! volume 2. It’s one of the most underrated, and is one that works perfectly in a modern stage production.

Speaking of production, Meg Roe‘s concept and direction of BOB’s Timon is unique, brilliant and relevant. Timon (Colleen Wheeler) is the top cat among the high-society sycophants of Athens (read Vancouver) hosting cocktail parties full of sparkly jewelry, brand name bags and champagne, giving gifts with no expectation of return and blindly feeling her those around her are her wealth. Continue reading “Tour de force Timon thumps on theatre two”

All you need is As You Like It

Lindsey Angell & Harveen Sandhu are Rosalind and Celia in Bard on the Beach’s signature comedy of 2018, and one of the most impressive to date.  (Photo: Tim Matheson, Bard on the Beach)

Daniel J. Rowe

How do you get from All You Need Is Love to a wrestling ring to a gender bending Shakespearean pastoral comedy to a pair of shoes to die for?

As You Like It. 

Bard on the Beach has upped its game again this year with what’s become a smash hit in the Beatles-infused musical hippy rendition of the play for its 2018 season.

The play is straight up entertainment from cover to cover with director Daryl Cloran missing no opportunity to hit a comedic, dramatic, romantic or musical note jumping from court to forest with style and side-splitting comedy epitomized by the John Fleuvog sixties-inspired shoes Rosalind (Lindsey Angell) wears at the end that every shoe-loving female (my mom included) will be drooling over.

NOTE: you may plan to not sing along to every song, but might very well catch yourself with eyes closed quietly singing “Something” by the end. Guilty.

The concept, sixties-based, hippy court and forest with Beatles music throughout, only had two possible outcomes: success or failure. Cloran’s production is cemented in the latter.

The set is stylish and not overly complicated, the costumes are superb, and the cast in this character-rich play is great. Each entry is exciting, and there are a few – scene stealers Ben Carlson (Jaques), Ben Elliott (Silvius) and Luisa Jojic (Phoebe) –  who add such an delightfully unexpected charm to the second half that the play continues chugging to the end. Jojic and Emma Slipp (Audrey) enter late in the play and both have stellar voices that’ll give you shivers.

My dad was obsessed with Silvius; so funny, such great moves.

Speaking of moves. The WWE-style wrestling match in the first act was a super clever move, using Beatles music, of course, was a great turn, but… Sigh… I have to say, swapping the Forest of Arden with the Okanagan? Not a fan. Maybe because I grew up in the Okanagan, or because it got a cheap laugh, or because the Forest of Arden is just such an important locale in the Shakespeare canon or because I just don’t like when they change names in plays to make it local that I did not like that. In the end, it wasn’t really needed.

That one gripe aside, there is no way I cannot recommend this play to newbie and snob alike. It captures this clever play for all of it’s charm and wit, and gives a quality platform for one of the greatest female roles on Renaissance drama. The musicians nail the music, and the swapping of the bard’s lines with the songs is something a purist may have a problem with most of the time, but in this play it really works. The only detraction is that Rosalind’s epilogue gets cut in lieu of “All You Need is Love.” Hmmm. Is that cool? Meh, whatever. It left everyone clapping.

I’ll post the epilogue here just to assuage my Shakespeare cynic guilt:

It is not the fashion to see the lady the
epilogue, but it is no more unhandsome than to see
the lord the prologue. If it be true that good wine
needs no bush, ’tis true that a good play needs no
epilogue. Yet to good wine they do use good bushes,
and good plays prove the better by the help of good
epilogues. What a case am I in then that am neither
a good epilogue nor cannot insinuate with you in
the behalf of a good play! I am not furnished like a
beggar; therefore to beg will not become me. My
way is to conjure you, and I’ll begin with the
women. I charge you, O women, for the love you
bear to men, to like as much of this play as please
you. And I charge you, O men, for the love you bear
to women—as I perceive by your simpering, none
of you hates them—that between you and the
women the play may please. If I were a woman, I
would kiss as many of you as had beards that
pleased me, complexions that liked me, and breaths
that I defied not. And I am sure as many as have
good beards, or good faces, or sweet breaths will for
my kind offer, when I make curtsy, bid me farewell.
(exeunt)
  – Rosalind

If you have not already, and if you’re in Vancouver, you’ve got to check out this play. BOB added more performances, but don’t be lazy; they will sell out.

The company of As You Like it is a quality blend of personalities with solid energy and incredible comic timing. Ben Carlson (orange and brown ensemble) as Jaques is melancholic brilliance. (Photo: Tim Matheson. Bard on the Beach)

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A midsummer night of wine and fairies in Kelowna

Seating was not great, but the play within the play stole the show at Shakespeare Kelowna’s Midsummer Night’s Dream that wraps Saturday. (Kathleen Rowe, The Bard Brawl)

Kathleen Rowe

This play is a delight and full of spirited dialogue and physical comedy.

Set against the beautiful Spierhead Winery (Spearhead? Which is it?) in Southeast Kelowna A Midsummer Night’s Dream was enjoyed by a full house of appreciative Shakespeare fans (and probably a couple, who got dragged along by said fans).

Shakespeare Kelowna is celebrating 25 years of bringing the bard to life for Kelowna audiences and the reaction of the audience proved that they are doing a splendid job of it.

Continue reading “A midsummer night of wine and fairies in Kelowna”

BB Podcast, chatting with Romeo and Capulet

 

Shauna Thompson (Romeo) and Nadia Verrucci (Capulet) join Bard Brawl co-creators Eric Jean and Daniel J. Rowe in a noisy cafe moments after France won the World Cup to chat about Repercussion Theatre’s production of Romeo & Juliet: Love is Love.

Please excuse the background noise particularly the horn celebrating France’s win.

 

Check the list of shows to find a park nearest you to check out this fine production.


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Gender bending R&J blends beauty and bravery

Joint female leads is a perfect way to give one of Shakespeare’s most overproduced plays the spark it needs, and a relevant contemporary touch. (Courtesy Studio Baron Photo, Repercussion Theatre)

Daniel J. Rowe

The questions I’ve been asking myself since seeing Repercussion Theatre‘s Romeo & Juliet: Love is Love are these:

What do I, as a snobby Shakespearophile want to see in a production?

What do I hope others see?

What is the best way to produce something the masses will come out to?

How many jokes are too many jokes? (It’s always fewer than you think…)

The Bard Brawlers have said more than once we feel R&J is a play produced far too often, that many productions miss key points in the play, and that there are better plays dealing with love in the cannon.

Top marks for set and costume design at Repercussion Theatre’s latest Shakespeare in the Park gift for the summer. (Daniel J. Rowe, The Bard Brawl)

That aside, Amanda Kellock‘s innovation, artistic direction, and interpretation of the play makes the current production well world a look.

“In sadness, cousin, I do love a woman,”

– Romeo; I,i

First, and most poignantly, Romeo (Shauna Thompson) and Juliet (Michelle Rambharose) are both female.

Thus, the early line, “In sadness, cousin, I do love a woman,” takes on a whole different meaning, importance and, in this production, power. Thompson’s delivery off it actually gave me some shivers.

Everything about this play depends on the leads, and Thompson and Rambharose are both excellent. In past productions and films I’ve caught, Mercutio and Tybalt can steal the show, but in this production they certainly do not (more on that later). The two women are tender and scared and erratic with their affection, which is the key to Romeo and Juliet.

The two lovers are very young, very excitable, very immature and very erratic.

Remember, SPOILER ALERT, Romeo kills two people in the play, falls in and out of love with one, while in love with another, and kills herself rather than waiting a damn second to think about what she’s doing. Geez. Chill.

Thompson gets there. Her range is on display throughout and she traverses the inconstant Romeo’s emotions with tact and care.

In addition to the leads, Capulet (Mr. and Ms.) are gender swapped, as is Benvolio.

Capulet (Nadia Verrucci) is the scene stealer if there is one. When onstage, she is a presence to be reckoned with and her ability to go from funny to down right frightening is effective to be sure. When she reams out Tybalt (Patrick Jeffrey), you get that cringy, watching-someone’s-mom-ream-their-kid-out-in-public-feeling that shows who has power, and why the landscape has degraded to the point it’s at: IE, the streets are a battleground between two gangster families.

So we come to the point where a critic must be a critic. Romeo and Juliet’s Verona is a dangerous, dirty place where two groups of people have been street brawling (bing) for some time. Benvolio, Romeo, Tybalt, Mercutio and that rest have been duking it out on the streets for so long that the prince declares a death sentence if it happens again.

“To wield old partisans in hands as old,
Cankered with peace, to part your cankered hate.
If ever you disturb our streets again,
Your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace.
For this time, all the rest depart away,”
  – Prince, I, i

In Repercussion’s production, Tybalt and Mercutio (Adam Capriolo) never seem that fierce. Mercutio in particular goes for far too many laughs. His character is, no doubt, funny and lusty, but he’s also got some venom in him that it’s hard to see in this production. He did get a lot of laughs at the production I was at, but could have had some gasps and shivers too, which is a shame. One less joke and perhaps one more bee sting were in order.

Oh, and on the topic of laughs, audiences need to stop waiting to laugh and laughing at things that aren’t funny! Ugh, using fabric as blood is not funny! It’s tragic if you let it be, and allow some discomfort. (Rant over)

Two last things: the set and costumes are perfect for this play. Sophie el Assaad’s colour and style palette is sharp and perfect for the production, and the set is slick without being over-designed. Top marks.

The play runs to August 8 in and around Montreal, and is donation-based. Check it out. Bring a blanket or chair and something in case it gets cold (it did on Friday for sure).

Oh, and wear this jacket if you have it because it rules:

This girl knows what to wear to a gender bending production of R&J. That’s for damn sure. (Daniel J. Rowe, The Bard Brawl)

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