Stratford Festival

Director Martha Henry delivers a thoughtful, compelling Twelfth Night at Stratford

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Photo: Cylla von Tiedemann

STRATFORD, Ont. —  A pair of metallic trees dominate the Festival Theatre stage at the beginning of Twelfth Night. They suggest a world going sterile — a mood not really softened when Brent Carver’s muted Feste sings  to the rueful strains of composer Rena Jacobs’s music. And is there any emotion beyond languor when E.B. Smith’s Duke Orsino speaks those famous lines — “if music be the food of love play on?” (more…)

Stratford’s Guys And Dolls offers a visual and choreographic feast

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Photo: by Cylla von Tiedemann

STRATFORD, Ont. —   When it comes to choreography and visuals, the Stratford Festival’s latest production of Guys And Dolls consistently hits the jackpot.

To be sure the Broadway it offers remains a  place of the imagination: initially the imagination of Damon Runyon, whose short stories about lovable low-lifers provided the impetus for a show that in turn would brilliantly showcase the inventive genius of composer-lyricist Frank Loesser and book writers Abe Burrows and Jo Swerling. (more…)

Stratford delivers a stylish School For Scandal

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Photograp: Cylla von Tiedemann

STRATFORD, Ont. — “Tale-bearers are as bad as the tale-makers.”

So speaks the aptly named Mrs. Candour in the Stratford Festival’s stylish and enjoyable production of  School For Scandal. Brigit Wilson’s engaging portrayal of this good lady may seem all fuss and fluff, with the comedy of her hairpiece furthering our enjoyment of presence here, but she’s also a character who, in her own inimitable way, injects a measure of common sense into the culture of Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s evergreen comedy about gossip, greed and hypocrisy in 18th Century London. (more…)

Stratford’s Timon of Athens probes a cankered heart

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Photo: Cylla von Tiedemann.

STRATFORD, Ont. —  It’s 13 years since Stephen Ouimette took on the hazardous task of directing Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens, a play that is a mess both structurally and psychologically.

But Ouimette’s production, which starred the late Peter Donaldson as the Athenian nobleman whose misplaced generosity destroys him and turns him into a raving lunatic, did exert a compelling power. It also, with its modern setting, was an indictment of big business and a ruthless board-room mentality ready to turn on its own kind when expedient. (more…)

Stratford strikes gold with Treasure Island

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Photo: Cylla von Tiedemann.

There are times, watching the Stratford Festival’s robust production of Treasure Island, when we might be forgiven for thinking that a lithe-limbed aerial contortionist named named Katelyn McCulloch is the star of the show.

After all, we’re constantly catching our breath as her spandex-clad body does unbelievable things high above the Avon Theatre stage. She’s a chattering tree creature with a penchant for cheese and a suspicion of earth-bound humans — although she is prepared to make an exception for the story’s young hero, Jim Hawkins. (more…)

Stratford’s HM Pinafore is waterlogged by the direction

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Photo: Cylla von Tiedemann.

STRATFORD, Ont. — Midway through the Stratford Festival’s production of HMS Pinafore, a character upchucks into a bucket.

Welcome to Gilbert and Sullivan — 2017 style.

The moment is unfunny — and therefore typical of the mindless bits of business that afflict Lezlie Wade’s unfortunate  production. Yet, the tragedy is that there are some good performers on stage. (more…)

Romeo And Juliet a shining triumph at Stratford

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Photo: Cylla von Tiedemann

STRATFORD, Ont. — By the time we get to the balcony scene, we know just how well the Stratford Festival’s new production of Romeo And Juliet is working.

From the beginning, we’ve sensed that it is firmly on the side of youth — which is exactly as things should be in Shakespeare’s tragedy of star-crossed young lovers. We’ve already seen it in the beautifully executed ballroom scene when Antoine Yared’s Romeo, his simmering romanticism just waiting for release, sets eyes on Sarah Farb’s Juliet, a vivacious 14-year-old primed to yield to the first flickers of adolescent yearning. (more…)

Ferocious comic relief and dangerous despair all emerge in Deborah Hay’s brilliant portrayal of Katherina inThe Taming of the Shrew.

Reviewed by Jamie Portman


Photo: David Hou.

STRATFORD, Ont. — For modern-day audiences, the most contentious moments in The Taming Of The Shrew come at the end.

That’s when Katherina, the fiery and rebellious spouse of the swaggering Petruchio, finally appears to be yielding to her husband’s god-given authority.

By this time, she has been dragged kicking and screaming into marriage. She has then been subjected to emotional humiliation, to starvation, to sleep deprivation by her new spouse — and doesn’t all this remind us of the classic interrogation techniques practised by today’s CIA?

Defenders of Petruchio may argue that he’s merely imposing tough love on a young woman whose out-of-bounds behaviour, furious temper and tendency towards violence have earned her the label of “Katherina the cursed” — that his determination to reduce her to a state of total submission is “done in reverend care of her.” But is it really that simple? Not by a long shot when it comes to the Stratford Festival’s astonishing new production.


Friends of English Theatre (FET) Prepare another trip to Stratford

News from Capital Critics Circle


Photo: David Hou.  Oedipus Rex



NO DRIVING!  CHOOSE YOUR PLAYS! See Jamie Portman’s reviews of the shows on our site.

What’s on at the Stratford Festival during  FET days:

The Taming of the Shrew

Love’s Labour’s Lost

The Adventures of Pericles

The Sound of Music


The Diary of Anne Frank

She Stoops to Conquer

The Alchemist

The Physicists


Stratford’s She Stoops To Conquer Has Its Moments

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

stoops1297709031184_ORIGINAL Courtesy of the Stratford Festival

STRATFORD, Ont. — There’s genuine pleasure in watching two veteran
Canadian actors successfully mining the humor of Oliver Goldsmith’s
classic comedy, She Stoops To Conquer.
So when the curtain rises at the Stratford Festival’s Avon Theatre to
reveal Joseph Ziegler and Lucy Peacock in warm and witty conversation,
their world of comfortable privilege further defined by Douglas
Paraschuk’s amusing country-mansion setting, you feel that you’re in
safe hands.


Past Reviews