To say that Ottawa actor Pierre Brault is a shape-shifting, identity-changing wonder doesn’t tell the whole story. His latest offering, Will Somers, is winning enough to attract even those playgoers who are getting sick and tired of one-man shows. Indeed, its impressive artistry raises an often overworked genre to a superior level.
At the Gladstone, Brault is delivering a robustly entertaining 90-minute excursion into the world of Will Somers, the witty and inspired fool who served as court jester to King Henry Vlll and survived to tell the tale. Do Will’s memories lurch over the line into the “tall-tale” category? Who knows? Who cares? This Will, in his own way, is the type of performance artist always ready to provide fodder for our amused speculation. We happily suspend judgement: given that our literature is full of unreliable narrators, is it really wrong in this instance to sacrifice truth for the sake of a good story? Hence, we’re easily drawn into those moments of sly innuendo mischievously conjured up by Pierre Brault’s Will when he gets onto the subject of Henry’s soured daughter, Mary, and the real nature of his relationship with her.
Noel Coward observed on more than one occasion that he was the kind of artist who takes light entertainment seriously. The same might be said of Pierre Brault who, in scripting this piece, has clearly done some meticulous homework on behalf of a historical figure whose life is more often than not shrouded in obscurity. (Continue reading » )
To survive as a court jester, at least under Henry VIII, was to walk a balance beam. You were expected to point out, humorously, royal follies, but cut too close to the bone and your neck was the one being sliced. You were a kind of confidante to the monarch without ever quite knowing where the invisible and shifting line of intimacy sat. You were to use words as currency in a world where innuendo and half-truths were the coin of the realm.
William (“Will”) Somers, Henry’s fool for two decades until the king’s death in 1547, navigates that beam with aplomb in Pierre Brault’s fleet, funny and sometimes dark imagining of the fool’s life under the monarch.
Virtually nothing is known of Somers, though plenty is of the bloody era when Henry’s growing intemperance and the conflict between Catholics and Protestants reportedly resulted in the death of 70,000 opponents to the king. The “most frightening man on the planet,” Somers calls his boss at one point.
Photo: McGihon /Postmedia Pierre Brault.
The title of this extraordinarily dense and multiple-voiced monologue reveals the macabre sense of humour underlying Pierre Brault’s text. Brault incarnates the Jester at the court of Henry VIII who by some miracle managed to keep his head during the whole reign of the monstrous monarch. “I make him laugh” replied Somers when asked how he survived all those years.
In fact, his saucy, subversive, sense of fun and which allowed him to trespass boundaries no one else could, transforms this character into a fascinating stage persona who spent his whole life performing and manoeuvering within the complex politics of the English court. Brault transforms his character into a slippery narrator with quick witted double entendres and word plays, winks and jokes that go zipping by and almost evaporate if you don’t pay close attention. He is also the conscious performer commenting both on the acting process and the role of the audience .
Photo: Courtesy of Gladstone theatre. Will Somers!
Long before the phrase became a cliché, jesters were speaking truth to power. As entertainers and critics, court jesters, or fools, held more sway than their station in the social hierarchy warranted, through medieval times, the Renaissance and beyond.
Even in this context, the King’s Fool Will Somers was remarkable among jesters for the length of his service — from 1525, when he was first introduced to King Henry VIII, until the monarch’s death in 1547 and on through the reigns of Henry’s son, Edward, and daughter, Mary. (He was rumoured to be the only man who could make Mary Tudor laugh). His last public performance was at the coronation of Mary’s sister, Elizabeth I, in 1558, two years before his death.
As presented by Pierre Brault in his newest one-man show, Will Somers is intelligent, funny, earthy, irreverent, yet caring and intensely loyal to his Tudor masters. Little wonder that the Brault version of Somers kept his head through a bloody period of history and religious conflict.
The Odd Couple by Neil Simon: the incompatible roommates are back again almost as amusing as before!
Photo: Wendy Wagner
Neil Simon’s 50-year-old comedy portraying the myriad ways in which incompatible roommates can drive each other crazy is almost as amusing as it was before Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon inhabited the characters of the slobbish Oscar Madison and the OCD neat freak Felix Ungar in the 1968 movie version.
Considering that the concept was also a TV series featuring the odd pairing, as well as numerous stage versions over the years, yet another view of Oscar and Felix poses a considerable challenge.
In the current Kanata Theatre production, directed and designed by Jim Clarke and Ron Gardner, Bernie Horton offers a suitably slobbish Oscar. Laid back and smiling, even when losing in the weekly poker game, his anger with Felix when he finally tosses him out provides a fine contrast, but some glimpses of that hard edge early on would have made for a more rounded characterization.
Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple first arrived on Broadway more than half a century ago, but time has not diminished its comic potential. In chronicling what happens when the neurotic, freakishly neat Felix
Ungar moves in with his good-natured but slobbish buddy, Oscar Madison, the play becomes a springboard for hilarity. But if you look beyond the crisp one-liners and the deftly-managed comic situations — and how did that linguini end up clinging to the kitchen wall? — you
also find a good deal of sharp psychological observation about how human relationships can misfire.
Kanata Theatre’s new production has several things going for it. To begin with, there is the work of Bernie Horton and Stavros Sakiadis in the two key roles.
Horton’s Oscar is very much the likeable slob the script demands. His housekeeping may be atrocious, the bedraggled sandwiches he offers his buddies on poker night probably constitute a risk to one’s health, and you may sympathize with the ex-wife who keeps nagging him on the phone about his maintenance payments — but there’s something endearing and disarming about this Oscar in all his fallibility.
As Felix, Sakiadis adroitly gives us all the irritating foibles that will have Oscar climbing the wall within days — the hypochondria, the obsessive neatness, the fusspot fastidiousness that even has him distributing dainty doilies to the gang at the card table during one of Oscar’s poker nights.
You’re sitting at home, in your favourite chair – with your
favourite animal in your lap (cat? dog? lizard?). You’re
surfing the web. You like it because your favourite movies
and games and TV shows are at your fingertips. But you also
like it because it tells you
who you are
. You discover all sorts of
things about yourself when you’re online. If you buy something online you get a
cheery message saying “I know what you like…why don’t you try this too?”
But wait. What if you were to leave the house?
Accent sur la création et naissance d’un volet de théâtre autochtone parmi les grands objectifs du document, intitulé Le Canada en scène
Le 24 mars 2016 — OTTAWA (Canada) — Poursuivant sur la lancée de son Projet de renouvellement architectural déjà solidement enclenché, le Centre national des Arts (CNA) a dévoilé aujourd’hui son Plan stratégique pour les cinq prochaines années. Intitulé Le Canada en scène, le Plan stratégique 2015-2020 prévoit la mise sur pied d’un nouveau département de Théâtre autochtone, une orientation déterminante en faveur de la création canadienne en vue d’aider les artistes et les organisations artistiques de partout au pays à réaliser de nouvelles œuvres ambitieuses, et une démarche ciblée visant à faire du CNA une organisation ayant une portée tout aussi nationale chez les francophones que chez les anglophones.
Exquisite 2016-17 Dance Programme Coming Next Season: Cathy Levy Brings the Best in International and National Dance to the National Arts Centre.
Cathy Levy established an NAC Associate Dance Artists program in 2007, with the goal of creating a community of artists and giving them an opportunity to meet and explore ideas with each other and with some of the greatest dance artists from around the world. Three of these eleven Associate Dance Artists will be featured on a special evening entitled The Associates in March of 2017. Work by Marie Chouinard, Crystal Pite, and Christopher House, will no doubt delight audiences.
NAC Dance is also proud to present Les Grands Ballet Canadiens de Montréal and The National Ballet of Canada as well as co-produce new work by Montreal’s Virginie Brunelle. We also have the chance to celebrate Canadians working abroad with Germany’s Gauthier Dance, founded by Canadian Dancer Eric Gauthier.
Photo: Regine Brocke, Gauthier Dance.
Highlights include return visits by international superstar Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and his company Eastman, NAC Associate Dance Artists Crystal Pite, Marie Chouinard and Christopher House; Montreal’s Virginie Brunelle, America’s dazzling Hubbard Street Dance Chicago; and Israel’s incomparable Batsheva. Shanghai Ballet returns after a long absence, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo returns with their unique flare as well Albert Ballet with their festive special The Nutcracker; and The National Ballet of Canada makes their annual visit with Onegin, an exquisite romantic classic.