Tag Archives: Repercussion Theatre

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.

IMG_9870

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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Repercussion Theatre’s Twelfth Night, Directed by Amanda Kelloc

20 Jul
Repercussion Theatre`s Twelfth Night

Repercussion Theatre`s Twelfth Night

Eric Jean

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

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

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

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

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

It’s a good gig if you can get it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A nice touch.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


Act I, scene iii; Mad King.

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Repercussion Theatre’s Harry the King, Directed by Paul Hopkins

28 Jul
Repercussion Theatre's Harry the King coming to a park near you until August 3rd!

Repercussion Theatre’s Harry the King coming to a park near you until August 3rd!

Eric Jean

In case you didn’t know it yet, Repercussion Theatre is proving that Henry IV parts 1 and 2, and Henry V are damned funny.

Like bust-your-gut, pop-a-button, get-dirty-looks-on-the-Metro-because-you’re-laughing-so-damn-hard funny. And, as my wife Rachelle “The Butcherette” can testify, that’s if you don’t understand a word of Shakespeare besides ‘Zounds!

I know you’ve just verified our chronology of Shakespeare’s plays on bardbrawl.com and were getting ready to write an angry email about how we obvious morons have left out one of Shakespeare’s great, immortal and immutable work: Harry the King

“Peace!”, says this moron!

See, here’s the deal with this summer’s edition of Shakespeare in the Park: Harry the King is actually a play adapted from Henry IV parts 1 and 2 and Henry V. Specifically, it grabs up a bunch of the bits involving prince Harry’s rise from being a good-for-nothing lay-about who spends all of his time in Eastcheap’s taverns drinking with his buddies to his ascension of the throne and eventual conquest of France.

At least that’s what it looks like at first but the whole thing never actually makes it out of the tavern.

The entire play takes place inside the tavern with Hal, Falstaff, Mistress Quickly, and company playing out all of the roles in Hal’s story. As such, you’ll see actors doubling up on roles in the same scene, frivolous funny voices and accents, whimsical posturing and funny walks, criticism and praise of the actors performances and of course off-the-cuff comments about what’s happening to the audience who is a stand-in for the other tavern patrons.

So really, the whole thing is like an epic and uproarious Bard Brawl on stage if the Bard Brawl had a budget, some sound and lighting equipment, a stage and a live audience!

On an unrelated note, we still have a donate button and plenty of copies of ‘Zounds! for sale.

If you’re a purist who likes their Shakespearean histories untouched, their iambic speechifying solemn and formal, and their Salic law needlessly obscured and overly complicated to all except for those 2 guys in the front row who have been involved in 15th century Renaissance re-enactment for 20 years, maybe this won’t be the production for you.

But if you’re a person with a pulse and at least a few friends, particularly if you are a person subscribed to the Bard Brawl, there’s a good chance you’ll be thinking to yourself as you fold up your lawn chair or picnic blanket: “Well that was well worth the price of admission.”

Shakespeare in the Park is free so that was a free joke. (You’re welcome.)

But don’t be like that guy who refuses to tip: Repercussion Theatre lives on donations so when the actor who just made you pee your pants at the end of the first half of the play comes by with a hat during the intermission, hide your shame and drop a few bucks in please. (Or you can click here and donate.)

Pack up your cooler with a few snacks and a couple of drinks, bring a blanket and go see Repercussion Theatre’s Harry the King in a park near you before it’s too late! I won’t come to your house and force you to go see this (because I don’t know where you live, mostly), but I’ll just leave this last remark here for you to do with as you please.

This is the one play that made my wife say, for the first time ever since I have known her: “I want to go back and see it again!

The Harry the King tour ends on August 3rd. You can check out Repercussion Theatre’s website for dates and locations of upcoming performances.

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