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.
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.
As young Mamillius asks his mother to tell him a story, he says that “a sad tale’s best for winter,” but Groundling Theatre Company’s The Winter’s Tale moves through every mood of the play with elegance and thoughtfulness. But within each moment creeps the menacing and destructive power of patriarchy. In the dark Winter Garden Theatre, I sat onstage amidst the other audience members examining the small set and starring into the dark abyss of empty seats in front of us. The show began with the house in the dark and the pseudo-theatre-in-the-round style staging took place onstage creating an intimate environment. Graham Abbey situates the audience within the story by placing us underneath the proscenium arch.
What did I learn while assistant directing? A deceptively simple question.
Now I love Shakespeare but it’s a complicated relationship that is by no means perfect. There are a lot of things about Shakspeare’s plays that I find difficult to deal with. Part of the reason that I enjoy productions where the context is adapted is because it provides some wiggle room about what is highlighted within the play which can create a more diverse and innovative interpretation. Not that I don’t enjoy a good traditional show sometimes too.
So before I had even moved to Toronto and began my MA, I saw that Hart House was putting on a production of Much Ado About Nothing and from the poster I could decipher that it was going to be sets in the 1940s. I had lots of reasons for applying to assistant direct but two of the most prominent were that I wanted to learn directing techniques and I wanted to be a part of the process of working on a Shakespeare show (especially one set in a different time period).
I recently went to see Shakespeare in High Park’s production of All’s Well That Ends Well (directed by Ted Witzel). I was so excited to see this show because, not only does SiHP put on a fun show, but this is a Shakespeare show that is rarely done. It is a complex, dark comedy and includes an ending that ends ‘well’ but leaves you questioning whether that is good enough. It places you in a world where people have the right and the ability to determine whether you are worthy or not.