Welcome to Act I of The Comedy of Errors brought to you by the Bard Brawl. And happy birthday, Will!
We think it’s your birthday, anyway. Although Google may disagree or else feels that you’re not important enough for a doodle this year. I mean, you were baptised on the 26th of April so April 23rd seems like good enough of a guess, right? It also happens to be the day you died on. Weird.
Well, we promised it, and at last we’ve delivered.
Nope, once again it’s not act V of Titus Andronicus, even though you promised you wouldn’t bring it up again.
It’s a brand new play with a brand new Bard Brawl format. Instead of reading out each act of the play in its entirety, we’ve picked out some of our favourite bits. Kind of like a sports highlight reel but unlike this shameful display, or this one, there are no losers and the commentators don’t speak in those awful sports jock radio voices.
In between these speeches, which will be read by a revolving cast of Brawlers, our Bardic talking heads will try to point out what we think is interesting, noteworthy or just plan awesome about each act.
So grab a listen, subscribe and tell us what you think as we go pound for pound with the birthday boy!
Welcome Bard Brawlers. We are back and will release the first volume of our podcast next week. The play? The Comedy of Errors, Shakespeare’s first comedy and in the running for least plausible plot of all time.
Before you join us in our new format podcast, which will be released next week, feel free to watch the BBC version of the play staring Who frontman Roger Daltrey. It’s pretty good. Here’s part one, with the others all on the site.
Actually, there’s not too much in terms of adaptations of this play especially in film. It is a decent play to see live however. I’ve seen it once at Bard on the Beach, as has A.D. Rowe, who caught the steam punk version, which he liked. It’s pretty funny.
Here’s Ms. Lane’s six-minute take on the plot.
That should give you a taste of the play, and we’ll be back in to rip out the first act with dramatic readings and all.
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?
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.
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.
It has been some time since we came before you in print or podcast form to welcome you into the world of William Shakespeare, and all his wacky glory.
Rest assured, we have not forgotten you our beloved fellow lovers of the stage. We have, as happens in life, been busy with work and life and love and loss and labour and… you know… stuff, and have simply not had the time to check in, and criticize BBC versions of Shakespeare plays, muse on the meaning of Titus Andronicus or blab about why Romeo and Juliet and Midsummer Night’s Dream should be produced differently.
Spoiler: they’re both tragedies.
Eric, myself and the various other fellow brawlers will return in time with reviews, articles, and perhaps even a podcast or two to delight the many brawlers of the world.
We missed the hell out of you! And we hope maybe, just maybe, you thought about us once or twice while doing your stuff and thought: “I wish my Shakespeare buddies came back!”
And here we are at last!
We look forward to you and your friends joining our merry band, and thank you for your patience.
The Bard Brawl has, over the course of seven years, read aloud the entirety of William Shakespeare’s canon of plays. As co-captain of the Bard Brawl, I would like to just give a huge shout out of props to all brawlers who have come along for the ride.
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.
Much 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.
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.
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,)
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 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.
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.
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,”
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.
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.”
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?