shaw Festival 2017

The Shaw Festival opens with an outstanding Saint Joan

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Photo: David Cooper

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, Ont. — Critic Kenneth Tynan once observed that Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan was the first work to show the beginnings of the playwright’s senility.

Tynan reveled in this kind of attention-grabbing judgment. But on this occasion, it could also be seen as a diversionary tactic to quell the discomfort Tynan himself might well be feeling over the readiness of Shaw to take a serious look at matters spiritual in this play. And Tynan — like Shaw, a non-believer — ultimately did yield to its strange power. After hammering the play and dismissing Joan of Arc as “a divinely illuminated simpleton,” Tynan went on to confess that he was moved to tears by the conclusion of the performance he was reviewing. (more…)

The Shaw Festival ventures into Canadian history with 1837

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Photo: David Cooper

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, Ont. —  There’s a certain fascination in the experience of sitting in Niagara-on-the-Lake’s historic Court House and watching an adroit company of Shaw Festival actors relive events that actually happened in the vicinity 180 years ago.

But it was also intriguing to note the scowls on the faces of some board heavyweights the other afternoon when 1837: The Farmers Revolt landed firmly — even defiantly — on the Court House Theatre stage. This festival constitutes a curious anomaly in the theatrical world: The playwright who gave the festival its name was an unrepentant Socialist, yet its destiny rests in the hands of a board of impeccable Establishment credentials. (more…)

Me And My Girl: a winner for the Shaw Festival

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Photo: David Cooper

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, Ont. — The Shaw Festival’s main stage was alive with joy and laughter the other night thanks to a sterling revival of an 80-year-old British musical that brought a capacity audience to its feet at the close and clamoring for more

Me And My Girl, which has to do with a chirpy Cockney lad who inherits a title, a place in the House of Lords, and a vast fortune, may seem no more like a piece of piffle at first glance. But it’s catnip for the Downton Abbey crowd. Furthermore, when done with the inventiveness and energy shown by the Shaw in this superb production, its high spirits prove infectious. (more…)

Actor Tom McCamus in the Shaw Festival’s Madness Of George lll

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Photo: David Cooper

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, Ont. — Rumors are afloat that the new regime at the Shaw Festival plans to move even further away from this illustrious theatre’s central mandate of honoring the plays of George Bernard Shaw and his contemporaries.

That could be a risky proposition — depriving the festival of its distinctiveness and uniqueness within the international theatre community. On the other hand, that hallowed mandate has evolved over the years and already shows more flexibility than anyone might have imagined at the time of the festival’s modest birth more than half a century ago. Furthermore, the debut playbill of its new artistic director, Tim Carroll, features seven items that do, in fact, fulfill the wider mandate reflected in more recent seasons. (more…)

1979: A clear demonstration of the entertainment value of Canadian politics

Reviewed by Iris Winston

1979 by Michael Healey GCTC/Shaw Festival co-production  Directed by Eric Coates

Principles are just part of the equation on the road to success in political life. Also pertinent are viable policies, cunning, surface charm and a willingness to change course, step away from principles, promises and even integrity to stay in power. (The old dictum of the Ins wanting to stay in and the Outs wanting to get in by almost any means has not changed much over the centuries.)

But, to Joe Clark, Canada’s 16th and youngest Prime Minister, principle and integrity were more important than power. Therefore, he remained in the PM’s chair for just nine months. (more…)

Past Reviews