Sunday, July 8, 2007

Stratford 2007

Summer in south-western Ontario is beautiful as usual. And the renowned Stratford Festival (in the beautiful little city of Stratford) is one of the great pleasures to be had. Aside from the theatre, there is the setting along the Avon River and especially the part of the river that has been damned, creating the small, shallow Lake Victoria. Driving along the lake yesterday we saw a mother duck and a flock of little ducklings all in a row behind her were crossing the road. Waddle, waddle. So cute you could spit. And the cygnets are at their classic ugly-duckling phase - downy but turning whiter each day. There are lots of ducks, swans, willow trees to be enjoyed as you walk or drive around the lake. There will be pictures posted here once I get home and download them.

The shows have been variable, but I'm so happy to have seen them. It's been a long while since I've had such a glut of live theatre.

From the worst - in my opinion - to the best:

The Merchant of Venice
Indescribably awful. I'm not sure if they decided to play up the anti-semitism in order to make Shylock more sympathetic of out of some misguided bloody mindedness, but it was appalling. The language suffered horribly, most of it unintelligible. Graham Greene mumbled his way through Shylock. He's a tricky one to cast, no doubt, and I suppose the powers that be thought it might be palatable to have a representative of one put-upon people represent another. He was entirely incomprehensible. "fff oo cut ushhh, do we no' blee?" The design was ugly and matched the petulant performances. I can only assume the designer suffers from a terror of going through life un-noticed. Portia came across as a suburban spinster offsetting age with a bad blonde rinse and a series of God-awful outfits that did absolutely nothing for her. Her Bassanio was like a 15-year-old school boy who looked upon her like he'd never seen a woman before. I won't go on, it's too depressing.

The Comedy of Errors
Deeply unfunny. Directed by Richard Monette in his swan song year. Well, the swan's dead but it won't lay down. It was hammed up in the most dreadful, church-basement-community-theatre way. In-jokes and additional bits of dialogue like "hey dude!" left most of the audience cold. Embarrassingly weak.

My One And Only
This wasn't as good as Anything Goes last year, but it was fun. Cynthia Dale was lovely in the lead (rough English accent though, why did she have to even try?) and the rest of the cast were enthusiastic and energetic and charming. I think it just doesn't work as well as a show. Cole Porter has a wit and energy that works so well theatrically. The limpidly lovely Gershwin songs just didn't seem to hang together, and with actors who have to dance as well as sing... well, something had to suffer and it was the singing. And I reckon you can't do that with Gershwin. It was sweet though, and the final curtain call moment when they are all dancing on top of the plane's wings actually brought tears to my eyes... that kind of fantasy, good-times, nostalgic moment. I'm being a fuss-pot so this gets my thumbs-up!

King Lear
Surprisingly good. Brian Bedford had balls to direct and star in this two years after Captain von Trapp did it to such acclaim. The costumes were thankfully simple and classic (not that I mind other takes, but at least this design wasn't fighting for attention). I could understand everyone (WOW). Bedford was a realistic, pathetic Lear, and brought to mind my theory of the old king, that he is suffering from early-stage dementia, hence the mood swings and extremes of emotion. The fool (Bernard Hopkins) was a little to "regular", a little too like the rest of the court to suggest someone who could have got away with the things he said. I like an odd, eccentric fool. Rather like myself!

Othello
Really strong! Again, not that I need costumes of the period, but there was no attempt to do anything but play this straight. Fuck - that can be such a breath of fresh air. As an actor friend of mine had told me the previous week, in this production the characters are BEING, they are not carrying on and showing off. It's also the first time I've enjoyed the staging of a production at the Tom Patterson. I find that space very awkward most of the time. My only quibble I guess is that I found Philip Akin as Othello just a bit frenetic. His switch from calm, strong general into wildly jealous husband was very sudden and threw me off. Jonathan Goad was a fabulous Iago, Lucy Peacock a wonderful Emilia and Claire Jullien a lovely Desdemona. They were ALL good!

Oklahoma
FAN-FUCKING-TASTIC!!!!! I was not looking forward particularly to it, feeling somewhat resentful that, in a festival that is supposed to pay homage first and foremost to Shakespeare, the musicals get most of the attention. Well this one has it all. Donna Feore as choreographer and director, has done a wonderful job. The set was brilliant, with large light boxes of different shapes running across the stage, that reflect the amazing lights and represent the huge, endless skies of the prairies. The dancing was superb (all on a small set for its purposes), the acting delightful. The singing suffered a tad, as - again - you are requiring the performers to do it all, but that's nit-picking. The amplification sometimes seemed a bit much, but I got used to it. The performers carried the songs off with such zeal and gusto and the music... wow! I forgot how it is just one delightful song after another. Curly was a manly leading man, not classically handsome, but he had IT. Laurie was just delightful: flirtatious and capricious without being shrewish or silly, as is so often the case in musical theatre. I highly recommend it!

So that's it... for now. Not sure if I'll get out to any more shows this year, but if I do, you'll read about it here.

21 comments:

Saucepot said...

I was thinking of seeing King Lear and thank you for your comments. I shall endeavour to "make it so." Did you have an opportunity to dine at Down the Street Cafe or any other noteworthy establishments? Perhaps your next entry could be a restaurant guide to the Festival.

Capt. Luke said...

Dear, you must watch your language. Very unbecoming.

Anonymous said...

Is this now an X-rated blog??

Blog Princess G said...

Not X-rated at all... perhaps a touch impassioned at times. :)

Or... was that a request?

Anonymous said...

Other sites cater to the baser needs. Readers of this weblog have come to expect refreshiing intelligent text here.

Anonymous said...

God, all you bloody people. Take a pill!

L.H. said...

Disappointment is a bitter pill to swallow

Blog Princess G said...

L.H.: I shall avail to never disappoint you, not for all the yellow roses in the world.

L.H. said...

Lost in all the vocabulary controversy is the true topic of the post. McLaren was right? the medium is the message.

Blog Princess G said...

Marshall McLuhan I think. A Canadian.

Excuse my yellow roses remark, I thought L.H. was a charming American of my acquaintance lo these many years. But he denies all knowledge of this comment, unless of course he is playing with my mind. Sort of "gas-lighting" me, being Charles Boyer to my Ingrid Bergman. Mmmm... maybe I'm spending too much time watching old movies.

Anonymous said...

What do roses have to do...? Every rose has its thorns.

L.H. said...

Sort of like the Yellow Rose of Texas?

Or the Green Green Grass of home?

Blog Princess G said...

L.H.... all I can say is this - if you aren't a certain tea-tossing Yankee charmer of my acquaintance and if you don't share my wish that that the beagles smash the cowgirls at every given opportunity, well... well... I really don't know what to think. I shall now make a cup of tea and press a cool compress to my fevered brow. I'm so confused!

L.H. said...

The heart of the matter is this. We did not take you for that kind of girl, and neither for that kind of blog. Is it deemed necessary to turn the air blue to make a point, no matter how salient.?

Blog Princess G said...

If you don't all start properly identifying yourself, there will be many, many smacked bottoms to be doled out!

Capt. Luke said...

And yet the Large is all the rage

L.H. said...

Leave the tea unlaced. But not the stays. Perhaps a cold shower is called for, despite the rain?

Capt. Luke said...

nor the sneakers...bad or no...is a summer shower ever cold?

Capt. Luke said...

sometimes bad art can be just effective as a cold shower...;-)

Anonymous said...

please blog princess, do not allow anyone to post links to websites that leave us unprepared for that which we are about to see!

Blog Princess G said...

No offence taken, LH.