Oh baby. Coriolanus at the Stratford Festival was a lot.
I loved Measure for Measure with Shakespeare Bash’d. It was both hilarious and uncomfortable to watch. I say that because sometimes it was so incredibly funny and other times it struck so deeply at the awful parts of what is feels like to be a female that it made me uncomfortable. If I had to sum it up, it felt like watching women express what they need from others and then continuously watching those needs be completely ignored by those around them. And that just made me sad.
I really applaud the company of actors because the ensemble was strong and this is a difficult play. It’s a play with a lot of text. There is a lot of talking in this play which could really drag it out if the performances weren’t stellar. And the times when it did feel like it was dragging was mainly because I just really wanted a resolution and felt terrible for Isabella (played by Sochi Fried). I also should applaud Catherine Rainville who directed the show because her smart, action-packed blocking assisted in making the show fly. It was some magnificent acting across the board but Isabella and Angelo, played by Geoffrey Armour, blew my mind a little.
So far in 2018 I’ve seen four Shakespeare productions and I’ve written about none of them! The first three were all good Shakespeare shows with top quality actors and clear staging. If my goal in watching ten million Shakespeare shows a year is just to watch plays that tell the story really well then all of the shows succeeded. But I like watching Shakespeare that makes me see the story and the characters differently and The Chekhov Collective’s Midsummer Night’s Dream made me think about the play differently.
It’s pretty weird for me to be writing about Shakespeare in Prince Edward County. I’ve been going there for years to visit but I never would have considered it a place to see theatre. But along with my own transition into someone who visits the county more than once a year, comes the transition of Festival Players, a staple in county theatre, into a company headed by Stratford’s Graham Abbey. This signals big changes for Festival Players and Prince Edward County.
Alistair Newton’s production of King Lear starring Diane D’Aquila begins with two black doors swinging open as her throne moves downstage where she is joined by The Fool. She sits there looking small and groggy. The Fool opens the doors of a music box, resembling the ones onstage, to reveal a miniature of Queen Elizabeth I. As the music continues to play, the stage is bombarded with people to assist Lear getting dressed. Lear hangs there like a rag doll wearing a white nightdress while she is strapped into a corset and an overwhelmingly large black dress reminiscent of the mini Elizabeth. The idea of being trapped in a box or manipulated by others is quite clear.
The reason I started this blog was to archive productions of Shakespeare that made me think or inspired exciting thoughts, so when I saw Why Not Theatre’s Prince Hamlet, I knew that I needed to write about it. I have seen four productions of Hamlet in my life so far and many other productions of Shakespeare, but this was by far the best Canadian production of a Shakespeare show I have been seen. The reason that I study theatre and, specifically adapted Shakespeare performances such as this one, is because of the power I believe it has to not only show respect to the original material but to create a more inclusive and diverse theatrical experience. This show did that and it took risks and it is exactly the type of theatre that makes my heart sing. I applaud director Ravi Jain for being such a risk-taker because it was such a breath of fresh air.
Watching an amazing Shakespearean actor is like the perfect storm coming together. There are so many factors needed in order to truly give an outstanding performance. But when you get that perfect combination then it is really like watching magic happen.