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.
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 play is, now, Lysistrata by Aristophanes at Bard on the Beach in Vanier ParkSen̓áḵw:, 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.
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”→
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)
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.
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.
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.
That aside, Amanda Kellock‘s innovation, artistic direction, and interpretation of the play makes the current production well world a look.
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:
Summer is upon us, and as such that brings a slew of Shakespearean productions ready to be gobbled up by those venturing into the open air for some culture, comedy and maybe cultish murders.
The Bard Brawl has been entertained by a number of companies in various places, and, as a promo/bumper/preview of what’s to come, we’re going to highlight some of our favourites, all of which are putting on some exciting plays this summer.
Vancouver, BC’s premiere Shakespeare festival of the summer is the one at Vanier Park, and this reviewer has seen upwards of dozen renditions of various plays. BOB always has a few gems, and even the ones that aren’t four-star productions, still wind up being worth a look.
You’ve got a week left to check out the play with the bard’s most famous stage direction of them all at Bard on the Beach. The Winter’s Tale will leave you roaring or bleating, depending on your spirit animal. (Photo & Image Design, David Cooper & Emily Cooper)
For those who haven’t read or seen it a brief synopsis:
King Leontes (Kevin MacDonald) of “Bavaria” (with a coastline and everything. Who said global warming is a modern issue) is all in love and happy with his wife Hermoine (Sereana Malani), but then he notices his wife is spending a little too much time with his bestie King Polixenes (Ian Butcher). Are they holding hands?! OMG, kill them all. So yeah a bunch of jealousy, the pregnant queen “dies” in jail, and the king wants to kill the baby too, so ferried away the young Perdita (later Kaitlin Williams) is. She’s saved from a bear (poor Antigonus (Andrew Wheeler)), found by a Sicilian shepherd, meets Florizel (Austin Eckert) 16 years later, who may also be royalty, and then it’s all wrapped up in the end back in Bohemia. There are sheep, there’s a bear, there’s magic and there’s a guy picking everyone’s pockets throughout.
Just go see it. It will all make sense.
Before anything else, the question is: do they pull off the following quote.
Antigonus: This is the chase, I am gone forever.
[Exit, pursued by a bear]
This is the highlight of the show that everyone is waiting for, and like Mark Antony’s speech, “my kingdom for a horse,” the murder of Duncan or “to be or not to be,” directors need to nail this one.
Does Gibson in fact, nail it? Absolutely.
Wheeler is great as Antigonus and the bear is incredible, as is the creepy appearance of Hermoine with eyes pulled out and everything. I was actually a little worried my niece would be traumatized by that image.
Props to designers for choosing a bear breed native to the Pacific Northwest, and extra credit for actually having the bear on stage and attack Antigonus rather than the always disappointing roar offstage.
Ok. That’s out of the way, and how about the rest?
This play is not easy to direct or produce, as it’s essentially two plays in one: the cold world of men and court in the first half, and the pastoral matriarchal world of the second half. How do you make them both work, so the play comes off as a single story. Both bard brawl co-captain Eric Jean and I studied this under the wise tutelage of Dr. Kevin “K-Pax” Pask, and it helped a bunch to understand the finer points that can whizz right by if you’re not paying attention.
Gibson does a good job at balancing the two halves, and using simple, but effective stage pieces to illustrate greater themes.
One criticism I had was the intensity of some performances in the first act.
My brother and I were chatting after about actors taking it up to 11 and keeping it there for too long, which a few did. It’s a little wearying and a few of the performers could have used a drop in intensity at times during the first half.
MacDonald, however, gets top marks for his jealous and tortured tyrant turned suppliant and guilt ridden victim. He, most of all actors on stage, varies his performance giving it a depth needed in such a complex character.
Oh, and the sheep… Amazing
The second half, with it’s pastoral airiness and light humour is incredibly designed, well acted, fun, funny and a joy to watch. Williams and Eckart are all charm and aided by the humour stylings of Autolycus (Ben Elliott), who’s great.
The play wraps in one of the bard’s finest endings that Gibson’s production does incredibly well. The magic of it all leaves that, dang. Yes! That’s why I like the bard feeling inside, and makes the whole thing wrap in a nice bow.
So, in answer to the “what did you think?” question everyone gets after leaving a play. Here goes.
The BOB’s 2017 version of The Winter’s Tale is a well-balanced, well-acted and incredibly designed show though almost too heavy at sections towards the front of the play. The play is one of the purists to be sure. The theme is tricky, the language heavy and some of the aspects of it take a little suspension of disbelief as well as critical study. That study, my friends, makes everything better.
Be well and let us be all so luck as to exit, pursued by a bear.