The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0532 Tuesday, 9 June 1998.
Date: Saturday, 6 Jun 1998 10:59:49 -0400
Subject: Stratford Festival Season
Well, four down, eight to go. Here's the low down on the starting line
up at the Stratford (Ontario) Festival this year:
Man for All Seasons: Douglas Rains blew everyone off stage during the
first public performance, which lacked connectedness and focus. I'm
told however that the final dress rehearsal was smashing, so it may have
been a simple case of good-dress/bad-show syndrome. The sets and
costumes are sumptuous. Brad Rudy as the Common Man and Benedict
Campbell as Henry VIII were both excellent. I had major complaints
about the female performances - I missed the bond between More and his
daughter in particular. More recent word has it that the show has
improved throughout the Preview season.
Julius Caesar: fraught with mixed reviews and odd directorial
decisions. Highlights include the crowd scenes, Stephen Ouimette and
Tom McCamus as Cassius and Brutus respectively (and conditionally, see
below), and again Ben Campbell as Mark Antony. Campbell has an inate
charisma and eloquence which makes his power over the hoards
unquestionable. Complaints include double casting Stephen Russell as
Caesar and as the clown evicted from Brutus' tent in the second half.
The problem is not with the double casting (surely the similarity of the
clown could have inspired Brutus' hallucination) but that Caesar's ghost
appears ****dressed as the clown*****. Huh????? Also, a few stagey
effects distract and interrupt the flow. Also I missed Brutus' story
line. To me, the play is much more about Brutus than about Caesar.
We're talking about a man who betrays his beloved lord - a sin serious
enough for Dante to place Brutus and his brother into two of the devil's
mouths to be chewed on for eternity (the ultimate sinners). Surely this
is Brutus' tragedy - but in the Stratford production we lose sight of
Brutus' love for Caesar, his torment at (or even his consideration of )
betraying him, his inability to stop the events that follow his deed.
McCamus is entirely watchable as a performer, but his Brutus does not
reveal those elements I feel are crucial to his character.
Man of La Mancha - Loads of fun, sumptuously mounted. Cynthia Dale
surprised me with her ability to carry the role of Aldonza (although she
is much too good looking if you ask me). Juan Chioran is the perfect
sincere ham to carry off Cervantes/Quixote. Amazing choral work. Highly
Much Ado About Nothing: with Brian Bedford and Martha Henry in the lead
roles, this is an older love story than we are used to, but it works!
So much of Benedick and Beatrice's cynicism can be explained by their
age, and yet neither succumbs to shrewish or malicious intent. It's is
a purely joyful production from beginning to end, one which celebrates
life as much as love. My ever-so-serious companion belly-laughed
throughout. Now *there*'s an accomplishment!