Photo. David Cooper
NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, Ont. — There’s Fiona Byrne, poignantly convincing as Kate, the oldest of the sisters and a bundle of laced-in repression. She’s a school teacher, painfully aware of being the only real wage-earner of the household at a time of gathering economic travail, devout in her Roman Catholic faith, and fiercely devoted in her own humourless way to her family.
There is Serena Parmar, a mixture of resilience and vulnerability as Chris, the youngest of the sisters. She’s the mother of seven-year-old Michael and unemployed — her life on hold because of Michael’s vagabond father, Gerry, who is more absent than present in their lives. (Continue reading » )
Photo: David Cooper.
NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, Ont. — The other night Tom Pidgeon, the Ottawa Little Theatre’s longtime technical director, made a memorable contribution to the Shaw Festival’s riotous production of Androcles And The Lion.
He ended up on the stage of the venerable Court House Theatre — playing the lion.
Pidgeon happened to be in the audience that evening, and had been plucked from its midst, equipped with a scrofulous wig and bedraggled tail, and assigned the task of delivering assorted roars, growls and moans until actor Patrick Galligan, in the role of the kindly Christian tailor, Androcles, removed a painful thorn from the creature’s paw.
The motley magnificence of Pidgeon’s effort earned an appreciative burst of applause before he was allowed to return to his seat and become a member of the audience again. But not an invisible member of that audience — no one in the house really was.
(Continue reading » )
Motown, the Musical. Performing the Jackson 5. Photo: Joan Marcus
Motown, the Musical. Book by Berry Gordy; music and lyrics from the legendary Motown catalog . Broadway Across Canada in association with Work Light Productions. Directed by Charles Randolph-Wright/ Plays Southam Hall, National Arts Centre
The musical legacy of the remarkable growth of Motown speaks for itself through this jukebox musical — which is just as well because the book by Motown founder Berry Gordy is nothing to write home about. (Continue reading » )
kiviuq Returns: photo national Arts Centre English language theatre
Kiviuq Returns is a collective work produced by Quaggiavuut, a Nunavut-based arts organization that has also worked in Banff with dancers, choreographers and technical staff. Singers, musicians, story tellers, dancers, actors, painters, set and costume designers, and all manner of artists interested in exploring the re-imagined journey of the legendary Kiviuq , the great northern figure who represents all life as he returns through the whole Arctic territory, have come together to share each other’s artistic talents and create an extraordinary event that is danced, spoken and sung, mostly in Inuktitut. (Continue reading » )
The Virgin Trial. Photo Cylla von Tiedemann
STRATFORD, Ont. — Tudor England in all its drama and turbulence continues to attract a huge following in today’s popular culture. From the reign of King Henry Vlll through to the Gloriana days of Elizabeth 1, we’ve had an unending cycle of popular and academic history, best-selling fiction, movies, television series and stage plays.
It’s inevitable that we often get more mythology than history and that the speculative often vies with the factual for our attention. Purists may harrumph about this — will we, for example, ever know for certain the truth about Elizabeth’s virginity? But can we deny that, even centuries afterwards, Tudor times remain urgently, irresistibly alive to us?
Part of the explanation must surely lie in the fact that we’re dealing with formidable personalities. A couple of years ago, dramatist Kate Hennig showed her awareness of this in her debut play, The Last Wife, which received a sterling production last season at Ottawa’s Great Canadian Theatre Company. It focussed on Catherine Parr, Henry Vlll’s last Queen and a lady who — given the history of her predecessors — showed an impressive capacity for survival. Hennig’s evocation of the dying days of a tyrant’s reign was aflame with dramatic tension, but it was the play’s status as a richly realized character piece that gave it the momentum it needed. And it compelled us to give our full attention to the complex personalities of the key players — not just Henry and Catherine, but also Henry’s two very bright but psychologically different daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, as well as that shady but charming opportunist Thomas Seymour who would marry the widowed Catherine and also pursue some kind of relationship with the young Elizabeth, a relationship whose very nature has kept us guessing for centuries.
(Continue reading » )
Photo: Cylla von Tiedemann.
STRATFORD, Ont. — The Stratford Festival’s new production of The Changeling starts revealing its fault lines almost immediately.
On the one hand, we have the always dependable Mike Nadajewski, revelling in the small but important role of that sardonic whistle-blower, Jasperino, and delivering the play’s 17th Century dialogue with naturalistic ease. (Continue reading » )
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?” (Continue reading » )
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. (Continue reading » )
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. (Continue reading » )
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. (Continue reading » )