2014
07.24
Colm Feore as King Lear and Sara Farb as Cordelia in King Lear. (Background: Victor Ertmanis) Photo by David Hou.

Colm Feore as King Lear and Sara Farb as Cordelia in King Lear. (Background: Victor Ertmanis) Photo by David Hou.

The Stratford Festival’s King Lear takes a timeworn kick at the emotional-realist / Shakespeare-plus relevance can. Director Antoni Cimolino presses his actors to convey every last one of their emotions as plainly as possible and encourages us to see the purportedly timeless significance of the play’s social critiques by adding a clutch of homeless characters who occasionally interact silently with those in the named roles. This latter device is less overtly topical than the numerous tricks Chris Abraham plays in A Midsummer Night’s Dream on the same stage and with many of the same actors, and the overall results of Cimolino’s choices are less theatrically inventive than those in Dream. [READ MORE at BLOGGINGSHAKESPEARE]

2014
07.24
From left: Stephen Ouimette (left) as Bottom, Evan Buliung as Titania and Jonathan Goad as Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Photo by Erin Samuell.

From left: Stephen Ouimette (left) as Bottom, Evan Buliung as Titania and Jonathan Goad as Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Photo by Erin Samuell.

Celebration, festivity and inclusiveness are the dominant tones in the Chris Abraham-directed A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Stratford Ontario’s Festival Theatre. He signals this festive spirit of community before the show begins by sending many cast members in semi-casual summer dress out to mingle and chat on the theatre’s thrust stage, some of them joking with and taking pictures of the audience. Accompanied by easy-listening jazz tunes, they move about a set that does not change when the action shifts from Athens to the woods. Designer Julie Fox has covered the platform in artificial turf, clumps of scrub, and trees that rise up, partially covering the second level of the stage structure. What look like enclosed candles are placed amongst the greenery and fairy lights are strung about, as are several long strands of larger bare bulbs hanging between the theatre’s upper balcony seating and the trees onstage. Upstage left stands a barbecue, while musical instruments fill the niche upstage right. [READ MORE at BLOGGINGSHAKESPEARE]

2014
07.24
Tom McCamus (centre, left) as King John and Brian Tree as Cardinal Pandulph with members of the company in King John. Photo by David Hou.

Tom McCamus (centre, left) as King John and Brian Tree as Cardinal Pandulph with members of the company in King John. Photo by David Hou.

Much has been made of the convention of “Original Practices” (OP) on display in the King John currently playing in the Tom Patterson Theatre at Ontario’s Stratford Festival. These practices appear at the Tom Patterson in the form of a bare wooden stage illuminated by real and simulated candles (augmented by standard-issue electric stage lights), some live music and instrumentation (augmented by recorded sound), a reliance on minimal props and rich early modern costuming, simple blocking, and acting that twenty-first century spectators would recognize as psychologically realistic but that is punctuated with direct address to the theatregoers. [READ MORE at BLOGGING SHAKESPEARE]

2013
07.11

Gyula Shakespeare Festival’s Hamlet

Mátray László as Hamlet. Photo by Kiss Zoltan.

Mátray László as Hamlet. Photo by Kiss Zoltan.

The Tamási Áron Theatre’s superb Hungarian-language Hamlet, which opened on July 5 at co-producer Gyula Castle Theatre, revealed the great potential of tourist-festival Shakespeare.

The Castle Theatre—or Vászinház—has hosted performances annually since 1964, and though it has a longish history of staging Shakespeare intermittently, current festival director József Gedeon only formally began the Shakespeare Festival as a part of the company’s season nine years ago, in 2005. While the current season features three Hungarian-language Hamlets and one Hungarian-language Taming of the Shrew, Gedeon extends the Festival’s tradition of bringing to Gyula international Shakespeare, including a Measure for Measure by the Vakhtangov Theatre of Moscow (which played at the Globe-to-Globe Festival in 2012), Steven Berkoff’s one-man Shakespeare’s Villains, and the Polish-English Song of the Goat Theatre’s Songs of Lear (which won awards at last year’s Edinburgh Festival). Read more…

2013
04.05

A Steady Rain

A Steady RainThe Wednesday-night preview/dress rehearsal of Keith Huff’s A Steady Rain gave audiences in the Barbara Barrett Theatre a very clear idea of why this two-hander has become so popular. The play’s narrative (and Huff scripts plenty of actual narrative) is sufficiently melodramatic to hold most spectators’ imaginations: “Bad cop” Denny’s life veers towards the ditch when his sideline as a petty extortionist catches up with him;  “Good cop” Joey, a recovering alcoholic and Denny’s best friend, tries but fails to save Denny from himself. The play’s heady mixture of adultery, prostitution, drive-by shootings, injured and dead children, back-alley beat-downs, cannibalism, and the crossing of Denny and Joey’s trajectories as one sinks into despair and the other rises to salvation, is calculated to keep theatregoers riveted. Read more…