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Bard slapstick and K-town style

26 May

Kathleen Rowe

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The Comedy of Errors is one of Shakespeare’s greatest physical farces, full of lively action, touching love stories, reconciled families and wonderful roles for both men and women.

It is also his earliest comedy.

The Shakespeare Kelowna production, which wraps Sunday, although starting slow and draggy gained energy and ended in a hilarious conclusion, which had the audience laughing and applauding.

Matt Gunn in his first acting role gave a strong performance as Antipholus of Ephesus, and he steals the show.

Craig Paynton and Alyosha Pushak are the Dromios, while Matt Gunn and Mike Minions are the Atipholi (plural of Antipholus) in Comedy of Errors. Catch it this weekend. (courtesy Shakespeare Kelowna)

*If you want to understand who everyone is in the play and wonder why there are two characters named Antipholus and two called Dromio, check out the Bard Brawl podcast on the same play.

Both of the Dromios (Craig Paynton & Alyosha Pushak) were fantastic with their over-the-top physical theatre and crazy antics giving the play the much-needed zaniness. They are the key comedic performances in the play and without a solid Dromio (or two), the play falls very flat.

Corrine J. Marks appeared late in the second act but gave a forceful portrayal as the Abbess Emelia and exuded confidence with her commanding presence. The Hallelujah Chorus was a nice touch too.

The decision from directorStephen Jefferys to use music by the Barenaked Ladies played throughout the play gave it the modern touch which was alright, but I was not too impressed with the slang and would have preferred they stick to the original language.

Mentioning Justin Trudeau?? Come on now!

I will miss the Shakespeare Kelowna offering in the vineyard in August but the RCA Mary Irwin Theatre is a cozy venue and brings the audience close to the action so you feel part of the play.

Check this one out anon.


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Let’s boldly go along with the bard

25 Mar

Daniel J. Rowe

It all began with a list after watching Star Trek Beyond, and the ensuing discussion that ended with, ‘oh yeah. Well how do you rank the films?

Here’s my list:

Yeah, that’s right. Nemesis is last. How dare they dispose of Lieutenant Commander Data in that way!
Anyway, my friend Tommy posted this picture while going over my list:
and then replied with:
Cue comments from every trekie, treker, and whatever the new-era trek nerds call themselves, and a whole bunch of eye rolls from those who didn’t spend their youths watching the NCC-1701-D fly through the galaxies.
Ok, so why are you telling me this Daniel?
Here’s why.
The ensuing long-winded discussion as to why each of us placed which movie where (Nemesis is the worst? You actually liked the Motion Picture? Stop being a hipster. You’re being the hipster), the question of Shakespeare arose.
Tommy, it seems, did not appreciate the amount of Shakespearean dialogue in the Undiscovered Country, while I thought it was what pushed it ahead of the hipster picks (i.e. The Wrath of Kahn and Search for Spock).
In addition to the ultra-cool post-Cold War allegory, presence of Iman (I mean come on!), and great pace of the movie, the Bard is what gives it some of its finest lines.
So without further ado, General Chang (Christopher Plummer):

Shivers. Check this movie out. It’s incredible.

Shakespeare has lent his ever-relevant voice to many Shakespeare episodes (some may or may not have grasped the actual context of the play, as Eric Jean will explain to you in gross detail), and it is the bard who infuses some of the joy of certain Star Trek episodes. Captain Picard (I would argue) is the best at dropping bard lines.

It’s kind of unavoidable as Star Trek, like Shakespeare, is interested in the human condition about all else, and it’s what makes both so timeless.

It answers the question, why do we keep watching Shakespeare plays? The same reason we keep watching Star Trek, because we are human. Just ask commander Data.

I end with an anecdote that proves this point.

I was watching S03E15 of TNG recently (Yesterday’s Enterprise), and got choked up. Why? I’ve seen it like 10 times. What is it that keeps me coming back and sitting in suspense as NCC-1701-C tries to make it through the temporal rift? Why does that short conversation between Tasha Yar (Oh Denise, why did you leave in the first place?) and Guinan (Whoopie’s finest hour) evoke such emotion?

If you can answer that for me, feel free to leave a comment.

Here’s a hint: it’s because I’m human (I think).

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Music, whimsy, and the Merry Wives of Windsor

14 Aug

A.D. Rowe

Wives singing

THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR, 2016 Bard on the Beach; Photo: David Blue

What sets the productions of Bard on the Beach in Vancouver, BC apart from other Shakespeare performances is their style.

To be honest, the average person going to work unclogging a drain, filing papers, ceaselessly one-upping a coworker just to keep on top of the pedantic pyramid, doesn’t have time for Shakespeare.  (Hmmm, it’s actually quite ironic Shakespeare writes many of these seemingly mundane human behaviours into his plays so really, we should be constantly reading and watching Shakespeare so as to be aware of the ruts we are in.  But that’s a discussion for another time.)  What Bard on the Beach does so well is to appeal to the people while staying true to Shakespeare.  Sure, I see a few people nodding off during a long-winded soliloquy, however, I rarely find a person come away from a production regretting they had gone.

Bard of the Beach in their 2016 slate has again produced a magical musical version of The Merry Wives of Windsor set in Windsor, Ontario in the late 1960s that holds both the comedic Shakespeare in tact with the bar style kitsch Canadiana of Windsor.

The lifeless eyes of the stuffed moose head looks down on the Garter in where the wives Mrs. Ford and Page take the stage to kick off with These Boots are Made for Walkin’ while young Slender and Dr. Caius pine for Miss Page and the fat Falstaff looks to swindle the lot.

Photo 2Much of the play’s success rides on Falstaff as Shakespeare’s popular buffoon (whom it is rumoured the Queen really liked) holds much of the energy between the various parties.  He pursues the wives while Mr. Ford in disguise plies him for information about his schemes and all the while, Mrs Ford and Page are playing Falstaff for the fool he is.  Ashely Wright plays the bombastic Falstaff and does an excellent job of capturing the sleazy businessman who thinks himself the true ladies man while being totally clueless at the same time.

While the entire cast from Bard on the Beach is exceptional, a few others stood out that night.  Andrew Chown was spectacular as Dr. Caius in ridiculous valour suits and a French accent while Ben Elliott channeled his Jim Carrey (you know. When he was funny) to play a gangly Slender who unenthusiastically pursues the mistress Page.  And the two wives of Windsor, Amber Lewis and Katey Wright (not this Katie Wright), were outstanding as they ran the stage both in verse and in song twisting Sir Falstaff every which was and into the laundry bin.

The joy of the show came from the musical that worked it’s way through script as characters would come from the wings to take up instruments and play and the bar keep and host of the Garter Inn, played by Anton Lipovetsky, did a great job with his guitar keeping it all together.  The cast used the music of the late 60s to enhance the story and give the actors a chance to express their character through song which worked well with keeping the audience engaged.  You could tell by scanning around the room and seeing the smiling faces that this production was a hit and one that is a must see this summer down in English Bay in Vancouver, BC.

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David Marr, Ben Elliott & Andrew McNee THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR, 2016 Bard on the Beach; Photo: David Blue


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Repercussion Theatre’s Julius Caesar, Directed by Amanda Kelloc

8 Aug

Repercussion Theatre's Julius Caesar

On Tuesday August 2nd, Brawlers Daniel J. Rowe, “Mr.” Nicholas MacMahon and Eric Jean convened on the beautifully manicured grounds of the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal to assist to Repercussion Theatre’s 2016 edition of Shakespeare in the Park. Which overplayed comedy or star-crossed tragedy was waiting for us?

Oh, snap! Julius f’n Caesar! Yes! A Bard Brawl co-captain favourite!

We were really psyched about that. And Nick was excited that he’d finally get to see the last two acts of the play after walking out of the last production he saw to protest the death of Caesar. Indeed Nick,

[Caesar] hath left you all his walks,
His private arbours and new-planted orchards,
On this side Tiber; he hath left them you,
And to your heirs for ever, common pleasures,
To walk abroad, and recreate yourselves.
Here was a Caesar! when comes such another?

Unkind cut doesn’t begin to describe it.

As tradition dictates, we arrived just early enough to lay out the blanket and then have assholes set up with chairs in front of us. Then, resigned to not being able to see the very bottom of the stage for the next few hours, I reach for a cold beer to to slake our thirst only to have a petty caesar stop us with an injunction: “No beer here!”

What?!? Shakespeare in the Park, Bard Brawlers, pretzels, but no beer? Well, there was nothing for it. We had our programmes, we’d stretched out blanket, the play was about to begin.

It had to be endured. But be warned: no picnic beers at the CCA.

The setting for this Julius Caesar is a sort of post-apocalyptic pseudo Rome. The set for the first three acts of the play features columns of corroded metal and what looks like a rusted fountain. Peeling posters of Caesar are pasted to the columns and walls. Across the top of the set is a platform with drums and various percussion instruments which would be manned throughout the play by percussionist and composer, Catherine Varvaro.

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Deena Aziz delivers an energetic and powerful Marcus Brutus, though her performance is sometimes undermined by a tendency to race through her lines a little too quickly. Photo – Daniel J. Rowe

Scaffolding and ladders also made it easy for the actresses to ascend, descend or perch in-between the two levels. The space was used to great effect, particularly in the scenes where Brutus and Marc Antony address the people of Rome, and the set itself evoked the public spaces of Rome and the Capitol nicely.

The near-constant percussion score really helped animate the play, particularly in the final two action-heavy acts of the play. However, there were times where the music itself was too loud and it became difficult to hear the lines being spoken by the actresses. In the last two acts of the play in particular, the music really set the frantic pace of the action, despite the lengthy slow-motion Capoeira-esque stage fighting which did not add much to the drama.

Kellock also chose to open and close with a song which I feel did not particularly work well with this play. For the last scene in particular, the addition of a song at the end of the play took all of the power away from Mark Antony’s final speech in which he identifies Brutus as the only conspirator who did not kill Caesar out of jealousy but because he believed in the principles of the Roman Republic. It’s a central concern of the play – the conspirators’ reason for killing Caesar are should seem suspect – and moving to a song to close deflates what is a powerful moment in the play.

Repercussion Theatre’s production of Julius Caesar features an all-female cast. To be clear, the characters themselves are not re-gendered (Julius Caesar didn’t become Juliet Caesar, for instance) but rather the roles are played by female actresses. While this may seem to indicate that the artistic director had a specific point to make about the relationship between power and gender in the play, it seems that there was no such vision guiding this choice. The programme just describes it as “an idea whose time has come,” something one should have the freedom to do in order to spark conversation.

For the most part, I didn’t find that an all-female cast changed much of anything to the play, possibly because much of the play involves fights and discussions between characters of the same gender. The casting choice becomes much more interesting when the scene features characters of different genders played by actresses of the same gender.

The scene where Portia asks Brutus to confide in her is perhaps the best examples. Portia’s speech is full of references to her gender and expresses a strong desire to be thought of possessing masculine qualities. When delivered to a female Brutus the speech seems much more poignant and underscores the relationship of gender to power in the play.

This year again, Repercussion Theatre’s production was hindered by unevenness in the acting.

For the most part, the leads of the play were quite good. Deena Aziz delivers an energetic and powerful Marcus Brutus, though her performance is sometimes undermined by a tendency to race through her lines a little too quickly.

Gitanjali Jain was also excellent in the role of Marc Antony, a role made thankless by Marlon Brando’s iconic performance of the role in Mankiewicz’ 1953 production of Julius Caesar. Jain’s Marc Antony’s vengeance seems somewhat more calculated and less impassioned than Brando’s but still well acted.

The titular role of Julius Caesar was ably acted by Leni Parker, who continued to range around the set of the play either as a ghost, or as one of Saruman’s Uruk-Hai. Your pick. (She had a white hand painted on her face,)

Uruk-Hai

A nice way to tie back to Marc Antony’s curse, spoken over Caesar’s corpse. You know, this one:

The performances of the supporting actresses varied greatly. While many were excellent – such as Holly Gauthier-Frankel‘s Portia, or Warona Steshwaelo‘s Casca – others felt forced and over-acted and really detracted from the performance.

In the end, this year’s production of Julius Caesar feels like a better and more interesting effort than last year’s Twelfth Night though it does suffer from some of the same problems. A lack of focus in the direction of the play seems to be one, though Julius Caesar itself can feel like two plays in one, making it hard to bridge the two halves in a way that makes them feel connected.

Still, I am extremely encouraged be the choice of plays which Repercussion Theatre has chosen to tackle in the past few years and look forward to finding out what they have planned for next year!

(It’s too late to check out the production, but you can scope out some pictures and meet the ladies here!)


Act I, scene iii; Mad King.

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A glass of wine and a tale of suicide, romance Shakespeare style

1 Aug

Kathleen Rowe

Shakespeare Kelowna’s production of Romeo & Juliet at Okanagan Villa Estate Winery was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

It was a beautiful July evening and we enjoyed wine from the Vibrant Vine which made it even better. The Villa is set in the hills above Kelowna and the view is amazing as well as the magnificent gardens.

Now that's a locale to check out the Bard. - Okanagan Villa Estate Winery.

Now that’s a locale to check out the Bard. – Okanagan Villa Estate Winery.

One of the best-known love stories ever written (is it a love story though?), this play has been translated into dozens of languages and has inspired art, song, ballet, opera and film. The challenge in presenting Romeo & Juliet is to breathe new life, freshness and relevance into the production.

“These violent delights have violent ends

And in their triumph die, like fire and powder,
Which, as they kiss, consume. The sweetest honey
Is loathsome in his own deliciousness
And in the taste confounds the appetite.
Therefore love moderately. Long love doth so.
Too swift arrives as tardy as too slow.”
  – Friar Lawrence, II,vi

Neal Facey, long time theatre instructor, director and producer has done just that. In his own words, “This production is set in a fictional modern Verona where the Montagues and Capulets are the heads of rival fashion houses. The vibrant looks of haute couture thinly mask the corporate covert wars and rivalry of the fashion world.”

Matt Brown as Romeo brings a strong brooding presence to the character and Sarah Goddard as Juliet brings passion and life to every scene she is in.

“Ah me! How sweet is love itself possessed

When but love’s shadows are so rich in joy!”
  – Romeo, V,i

Romeo’s cousin Benvolio (Justin Gaudio) and his loyal friend Mercutio (Alyosha Pushak) display their true devotion to him and also add some comic relief with Mercutio’s pink socks and loud outbursts of devotion.

Fred Way, formerly of MBSS teaching fame, and Bard Brawl co-captain Daniel J. Rowe’s high school drama teacher, was the set designer.

William Shakespeare would have loved this production of Romeo & Juliet, and the story of love, grief and loss, hatred and violence, loyalty and counsel are as fresh today as they were over 400 years ago.

*EDITOR’S NOTE FROM DANIEL: Right on Mr. Way. Right on. Mr. Way was obsessed with Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 version of Romeo and Juliet, and did a production in tribute of it once. Funny story. Facey didn’t watch it telling me, “film is film and theatre is theatre.” Classic drama teacher line.


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Othello, a tale from the American Civil War

22 Jul

Kathleen Rowe

Having never seen or read Othello, and only using Iago as a crossword answer for ‘villain’ I was intrigued to find out just what this Shakespeare play, written when he was at the top of his form, was all about.

The Bard on the Beach production of Othello is set in 1864, towards the end of the American Civil War and it fits perfectly with the underlying theme of racism which is evident throughout the play.

Even though Othello has been promoted to Union Army General, he is treated with suspicion and has to wed Desdemona secretly has her father, Brabantio would not approve.

“Even now, now, very now, an old black ram

Is tupping your white ewe,”
  – Iago

In the 1600s people with dark non-white skin were put in cages an displayed in the town square as curiosities. Even though the Union Army were fighting for emancipation in the Civil War there was still an acceptance of slavery and racism throughout the north and south.

Kayvon Kelly as Iago, in his fourth season of Bard, was very compelling, and a strong presence on stage. Indeed the play lagged a little when he wasn’t on stage. You could always feel his loathing for Othello.Photo 3_0

Othello was an imposing character but easily duped by the cruel Iago.

Why does he “Hate Othello?” It was stated with great vehemence more than once. Iago’s racism is at times very overt and other times subtle and poisonous.

Was it because Othello is black, or is he truly jealous?

It’s part of what makes the play so fascinating, Iago so delightfully evil, and Othello so utterly tragic.

Iago was both jealous and racist and felt passed over as Othello had chosen Cassio as his lieutenant

Even the handkerchief that Iago uses to spur jealousy in Othello was said to have special powers instilled from Othello, as if there was ‘black magic’ involved.

The death scene was a little weak and some members of the audience were even laughing although I could not see the humour in it. It kind of showed that Othello’s character, played by Luc Roderique, was not as strong as Iago although his physical presence on stage was imposing (tall and dark).

Director Bob Frazer says “by setting Othello during the American Civil War, we are shining a light on what many suspect to be the beginning of the new, deep-seated and subtle racism in North America.”

Frazer has been at Bard on the Beach since playing Hamlet in 2005. Since graduating from Studio 58 he has amassed almost 100 theatrical credits both as a director and actor.

He feels Shakespeare’s Othello is a “timeless story that moves audiences on a personal level, all while creating some of the most memorable characters in his canon.”

Luc Roderique (Othello) & Kayla Deorksen (Desdemona) OTHELLO, 2016 Bard on the Beach Photo: David Blue

Luc Roderique (Othello) & Kayla Deorksen (Desdemona)
OTHELLO, 2016
Bard on the Beach
Photo: David Blue

The folk and instrumental music used throughout the play captured the patriotic fervor of the Civil War and the mournful ballads brought the themes of slavery, loyalty and love to life. Costumes were authentic to the period as well.

A well done and timely Shakespeare experience!

As always, we have to ask ourselves: would the bard approve of this production?

Yes! Forsooth he would!


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To like or not to like… Kenneth Branagh

3 Jul

Daniel J. Rowe

When sitting down to watch any of Kenneth Branagh‘s adaptations of the bard, you cannot avoid the first question: do I like this guy?

It’s like with Woody Allen. It’s very hard to separate the person from the film, and, even if objectively it’s a good movie, you have to come to terms with the creator.

Branagh’s done a half-dozen adaptations thus far with Love’s Labour’s Lost being the last of them in 2000. Then he kind of stopped doing them. Don’t know why. Don’t think he needed to stop, as he has a passion for the bard, but he stopped nonetheless.

Let’s look at that last film version, and see what we think of one of the Bard Brawl’s least favourite plays. The brawlers read through this one, and I think it’s fair to say no one really liked it. Reading and watching, however, are two different things, and there are many instances where one is superior to the other.

This LLL (that’s what we’re calling it because it looks cool and is 50-50-50 if we’re doing Roman numerals) is a musical and Technicolor style of the 50s or 60s complete with dancing set against the backdrop of the early days of the Second World War. If you don’t like musicals, you will not like this version. If you don’t like musicals, you may be missing something in life by the way. Just saying. Sing people! Sing on.

Here’s a taste.

Huh.

Who would’ve thought the bard could be so sexy? (The answer to that, by the way, is: the brawlers did. We get it.)

Watching it, I can’t get the feeling like a certain director may have been, ur, inspired? by this film when he made a certain other film. (CLICK THE LINKS).

Back to LLL.

The play involves three men who have cast off all worldly pursuits to lock themselves in a library for a year or something and dedicate it to learning. Girls show up, and dang if their sexiness doesn’t throw them all off their game.

Spoiler alert: you already guessed the ending.

Branagh’s version actually works pretty well. It shows how a play can come off as very boring an uninteresting when read, but then comes to life when seen on stage or screen. It was clever of Branagh to go the route he did and in so doing, he introduced the play to a new audience. I think. I can’t remember anyone seeing it when it came out.

Branagh’s immediate predecessor to LLL was Hamlet that he left untouched and filmed every single line. He got a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination that year, which is weird. LLL, however, he ripped up and put back together, and it works well. If I were teaching this play to torture my students or something, I’d show the film to reward the students for ploughing through the five acts.

Another fun thing about the movie is how much it proves stardom’s fleeting nature.

The film stars a whose who of who used to be hot headlined by none other than Alicia Silverstone. She’s a vegan now aparently. Oh, crushes of the mid-90s. Sigh. “As if” indeed.As IF

Also starring: the guy from Scream, the guy from like four movies whose names I forget, the girl from that movie with Robert De Niro that proved to me that I shouldn’t make a special effort to watch his movies anymore, and Emily Mortimer. I like her.

In the end, LLL works. It’s funny, it’s charming, and it’s got all the box check items that are needed to make a decent Shakespearean comedy work.

Branagh is best when he does comedy. His Much Ado About Nothing is also very good, and his bubbly lightness gives an energy that the cast picks up on, and runs with.

When’s the next adaptation Kenneth? Have you forgotten your first love?

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Hark!, a great set of comic strips with a bit of the Bard

18 Mar

Daniel J. Rowe

Kate Beaton is made to Brawl.

Just read Hark! A Vagrant and Step Aside, Pops: A Hark! A Vagrant Collection, and you’ll understand why immediately.

Funny, witty, and with a taste for the classics. Yep. Sounds like a brawler.

The idea of her comic strips, much like ‘Zounds! contributor Mya Gosling with her Good Tickle Brain, is to take history, literature and art and make them clever, fun and funny. She takes subject matter from mainstream and lesser known histories, as well as classic literature (and a bit of Batman).

Beaton is very funny and nerdy. It’s like she was meant to be a brawler. What she does is very clever.

  1. Take a historical or literature subject
  2. Draw them in a funny but not mocking manner
  3. Make sure to show to the nerds that you know what you’re talking about in the strip, but also make it easy to understand for those who are not a masters of the arts like someone I know
  4. Make it funny

Does she pull it off?

Yes she does.

There is not too much of the Bard in either book, but there is a rad one on MacBeth that I really liked.

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There is so much funny in this that I’ll leave it to you readers to post them in the comments below. The books derive from her popular website that is well worth killing an hour or two at while at work.

I actually laughed out loud at times reading Beaton’s two books.

At the bottom of each series of strips, there’s a bit of her thoughts on say, Edgar Allen Poe, Sir John A. MacDonald, the Tudors or Kokoro (you may have to look that one up, but I’m really hoping you don’t. Such a great book).

Here’s her take on Macbeth:

They say the real Macbeth was a pretty decent fellow and a good ruler, and he’d probably have a bone to pick with Shakespeare over character assassination. He’d have to get in line behind Richard III though, whom I have heard (from certain Elizabethan sources) was an ugly hunchbacked troll.

Very clever.

She would fit in well at a brawl indeed. We’ll sit her between Nick and Brooke and just let it go from there.


 

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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

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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