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Home :: Archive :: 2009 :: July ::
Stratford (ON) Festival 2009
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0365  Thursday, 9 July 2009

[1] From:   Jack Heller <
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     Date:   Friday, 3 Jul 2009 11:02:27 -0400
     Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0355 Stratford (ON) Festival 2009

[2] From:   Mark Aune <
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     Date:   Friday, 3 Jul 2009 14:13:00 -0400
     Subj:   RE: SHK 20.0355 Stratford (ON) Festival 2009


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Jack Heller <
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Date:       Friday, 3 Jul 2009 11:02:27 -0400
Subject: 20.0355 Stratford (ON) Festival 2009
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0355 Stratford (ON) Festival 2009

The press reviews of the Julius Caesar in Stratford, Ontario, playing at 
the Avon Theatre, have been unfavorable. They have focused on 
inconsistencies of the setting of the play, which seems to incorporate 
elements from the Roman forum, costuming from both WWII and perhaps 
Afghanistan, and whatever else. For me, the result was that the 
production seemed perhaps "outside of time" rather than located within a 
certain period. During the funeral orations, the plebeians were located 
throughout the theatre, and as I saw the play the week the current 
turmoil in Iran erupted, I think the play gained something, rather than 
lost something, in the range of setting.

Yet overall the settings seemed less significant to me than the 
performances. I've now seen Ben Carlson in six leading roles recently, 
and though I may not be the most qualified to say so, it may be time to 
consider whether he is one of our time's leading Shakespearean actors. 
I've seen him as Hamlet (in two different productions, with a preference 
for his Chicago performance), Macbeth, and now as Brutus and as Jack 
Worthing in The Importance of Being Earnest. I found all of the lead 
roles in this production of Julius Caesar to be persuasive. My one 
reservation with the play has to be with the play's conclusion, and this 
may have more to do with the text itself than with any particular 
production -- It is hard for me to credit Antony's concluding elegy to 
Brutus as anything but more political strategy. In this production, it 
seemed too heartfelt.

Jack Heller

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Mark Aune <
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Date:       Friday, 3 Jul 2009 14:13:00 -0400
Subject: 20.0355 Stratford (ON) Festival 2009
Comment:    RE: SHK 20.0355 Stratford (ON) Festival 2009

I saw Bartholomew Fair and Julius Caesar early in their runs in order to 
review them for two journals. (For those interested in the journals and 
the full reviews, please feel free to contact me off list.)

I too was very curious to see how the Stratford Festival would present 
BF. The staging of the play has been the source of much speculation 
because of the booths and the puppet show. The production used the Tom 
Patterson stage, a very long thrust stage, very cleverly, I thought. 
Rather than establish booths as Jonson's script suggests, about half the 
stage was devoted to Ursula's, and Joan Trash and Lantern Leatherhead 
were made to be mobile merchants. This left a large open space in front 
of Ursula's booth which the production used for lively song 
performances. The production made a number of subtle changes and 
decisions which lightened Jonson's acid sensibility. Overall, the 
audience on the day I saw it responded well. Several sitting near me 
confessed confusion as to who was who, but I think the music, pace, and 
energy of the production worked to overcome this.

Julius Caesar, at the Avon, a proscenium stage, incorporated moments of 
modernization and video projections to find analogues in recent (that 
is, 20th-21st century) history. It was a set in a sort of modern 
no-time. The costumes were modern as were the weapons, but the pagan 
elements were retained. At the time, I thought that its reach exceeded 
its grasp. There were a number of ideas about media, loss, and ritual 
that did not feel fully formed to me. I would like to see it towards the 
end of its run to see if any of these ideas were clarified.

Overall, BF was the more enjoyable of the two shows. If I were a 
speculator, I would guess that it will be the more popular of the two shows.

Best,
Mark

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