The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0766  Tuesday, 5 September 2006

From: 		Jack Heller <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: 		Monday, 4 Sep 2006 10:56:26 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 17.0746 Stratford Productions
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0746 Stratford Productions

I asked recently about productions at this year's Stratford (Ontario) 
Festival. I had seen eight plays in five days-which would be too much, 
but there would have been no other way I would have seen some of those 
plays performed. I have waited to comment to see what some others 
thought of the season.

Nothing I have seen this year struck me as truly bad, but because I had 
seen superior productions of Much Ado about Nothing and Henry IV Parts 1 
and 2 in Chicago earlier this year, the Stratford productions seemed 
lesser by comparison. On Stratford's Much Ado, I would not mind casting 
the role of Benedict with an actor in his 30s or 40s, but Peter 
Donaldson seems a little too close to Leonato's age to be playing 
Benedict. I have seen Donaldson in other Stratford productions, notably 
Timon of Athens two years ago and as Pastor Manders in Ghosts this year.

On Stratford's Henry IV, Part 1, I enjoyed James Blendick's performance 
as Falstaff. Hotspur was played with an emphasis on the comedy of his 
impetuousness-which would be okay, but the humor of his situation should 
be lost on Hotspur himself. The actor seemed too aware of Hotspur's 
silliness-which breaks from the seriousness of his insurrection.

I found the production of The Duchess of Malfi to be interesting, but 
not great. Its mood seemed more melancholic than horrific. The music 
used to emphasize the mood was too insistent-I would rather the director 
trust the audience to get the point without the music. I also wished the 
violence had been more gruesome. As interesting as the madmen scene can 
be, I don't think it should be more memorable than the appearance of a 
character who thinks he has become a wolf. I am grateful for my first 
chance to see this play performed, but I suspect there could be a better 
production in the future.

I enjoyed my first full performance of Coriolanus. Colm Feore maintained 
the character's egotism through to his capitulation to his mother's 
pleadings in the last act, and Martha Henry was good as Volumnia, who 
realizes too late what kind of son she has raised.

I think the best staging of Shakespeare at Stratford this year is of 
Twelfth Night. The play has been effectively set in colonial India, 
contrasting Orsino'a Indian household to Olivia's British household. 
Brian Bedford gave a memorable performance as Malvolio, who is more 
put-upon than his vanity deserves. Having seen Twelfth Night a number of 
times before, I almost skipped this production, but I am glad that I 
stayed for it.

Jack Heller

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