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Home :: Archive :: 2009 :: July ::
Stratford (ON) Festival 2009
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0355  Thursday, 2 July 2009

[1] From:   Phyllis Gorfain <
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     Date:   Wednesday, 1 Jul 2009 16:04:56 -0400
     Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0347 Stratford (ON) Festival 2009

[2] From:   Louis Swilley <
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     Date:   Thursday, 2 Jul 2009 06:39:40 -0700 (PDT)
     Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0347 Stratford (ON) Festival 2009


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Phyllis Gorfain <
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Date:       Wednesday, 1 Jul 2009 16:04:56 -0400
Subject: 20.0347 Stratford (ON) Festival 2009
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0347 Stratford (ON) Festival 2009

I attended Bartholomew Fair on opening night, and the audience seemed 
electric; I think most audiences have no expectations for what the play 
will be, of course, and many are unprepared for the Jonsonian satire and 
the wildness of this production, which is very imaginative. When I 
looked again at the script, I was amazed by the brilliant production 
choices! My husband, a physicist, enjoyed the play and appreciated the 
opportunity to see what may be the first professional production in 
North America.

Three Sisters, also at the Tom Patterson Theatre, I found excellent! For 
that show, I took my 16-year-old god-daughter, and she was astonished by 
how much she loved the play, the Chekhovian humor and pathos, and this 
particular ensemble that convinces one they've spent 11 years together 
in the backwater town. The audience did not seem to "get" the subtle 
humor, but the production still worked magnificently, in my opinion.

Macbeth, at the Festival Theatre, I found somewhat disappointing, 
considering one of my favorite Canadian actors, Colm Fiore, as Macbeth. 
The setting, in Rwanda, worked for me, in many respects, but the 
references to Scotland and England became discordant in a way -- it was 
as if there was one visual and material reality, and another verbal 
reality. The two could uneasily co-exist without quite cancelling each 
other out, but made little sense. Feore seemed to me too cerebral, 
somehow, and I found him also too bland as Cyrano, in his other star 
role. Nonetheless, I recommend Macbeth, Bartholomew Fair, and Three 
Sisters. I did not see Caesar.

The town is lovely!

Phyllis Gorfain

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Louis Swilley <
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 >
Date:       Thursday, 2 Jul 2009 06:39:40 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 20.0347 Stratford (ON) Festival 2009
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0347 Stratford (ON) Festival 2009

I saw "Julius Caesar" at The Courtyard Theatre in Stratford. For too 
many  minutes before the play, two young men in large diapers "wrestled" 
unconvincingly under a large projection of Romulus and Remus and that 
famous she-wolf. Then the play itself opened and shortly produced a 
sprightly Caesar who seemed about 35 years old. (A nice touch here was 
his kissing Brutus before leaving the stage for the ceremony of the 
race..). Brutus' nervous, anxious interview with Portia, wherein he was 
brought to tears to convince her of his love while keeping from her from 
knowledge of the conspiracy, was something new and well-done, ending in 
a desperate sexual embrace that was interrupted by the late arrival of 
another conspirator.

The actor playing Cassius had a stronger voice than the one offering 
Brutus, and several actors seemed to have no vocal training at all. The 
actor playing Decius Brutus -- that small part -- had the best voice in 
the whole group.

Periodically, a dark curtain was raced diagonally across the stage -- to 
what intended effect was hidden from me. And periodically masked figures 
appeared at the end of aisles barking  lines.

The seats at the Courtyard did nothing to help the audience appreciate 
the play. My left shoulder had to be tucked behind the person seated on 
my left; the person on my right was required to tuck her shoulder behind 
mine. The seats were that uncomfortably close.(I am of average build, by 
the way).

I attended some fourteen plays during my recent stay in London, 
Stratford, and Cambridge, and I was struck by the sad lack of evidence 
of a director's hand in most of them. There was no governing *concept* 
for many of the plays and, in many, the directors depended on tricks of 
spectacle (e.g., Julius Caesar)  rather than give us new insight into 
character. At the New Globe, the "direction" of "Romeo and Juliet" 
consisted exclusively of having the characters whip about the stage in 
all directions, waving their arms and shouting their lines. (The Juliet, 
we were told by our production-proud usher, had had NO training for the 
stage. It showed.). And, again, the seating - on backless wooden benches 
for two and a half hours - did nothing to help us attend to the play.

When we see the ferocious professional showmanship, the close command of 
every word and gesture of such  wonders as Lisa Minelli -- a woman who 
so desperately sings and dances "as though she has a knife in her 
garter" -- we should wonder why this precise sense of meaning and timing 
has been forgotten or dismissed by so many directors and actors, for 
this is the very essence of realized interpretation of character. Every 
play must be choreographed, and the "dance" it produces must be 
intensely new and insightful. When we (so rarely) see such a 
performance, we move to the edge of our seats and our mouths drop open 
with pleasure and wonder  (e.g., Brando in "On the Waterfront").

Spectacle is the very least important of the aspects of staged drama, 
yet spectacle seems to have become the chief concern of many of today's 
directors; they are smitten with  car-chase movies and the clankings of 
Disneyland and suppose that to depend solely on the playwright and the 
actors is to miss the theatrical moment - yet plays like Neil LaBute's 
"Bash" with its actors simply sitting on folding chairs facing the 
audience eloquently tells us that we are deeply and lastingly moved by 
*story* and *character*, spectacle be damned.

The phenomenon is one with our stupid, characteristically American 
conviction that school buildings and labs and "innovative" programs are 
more important good teachers - and our sick, uncritical belief  that 
quantity is more important than quality.

L. Swilley

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