The 2014 Stratford Festival: The Plays, part 1

In my last post I outlined some of the fun adventures I had at the Stratford Festival this year. Today I'm going to take a closer look at four of the Shakespeare productions I saw, starting with King Lear, starring Colm Feore. 

I am a very technically-focused and analytical theatre-goer, so I very rarely lose myself entirely in a play. This doesn't diminish my enjoyment (in fact, I think it enhances it) but it does mean I am rarely moved to tears by what I see on stage. And I'm not going to go so far as to say Feore's Lear made me cry, but there was definitely something in the air that made my eyes a bit itchy.

If I am slow to cry, I am quick to laugh, especially when an actor finds humor in a line or situation that I otherwise would never have considered humorous. The cast of King John, especially Graham Abbey's wry and swaggering Bastard, managed to unearth every latent laugh in what, on the surface anyways, appears to be a somewhat dour history play. I enjoyed myself tremendously, much more than I had anticipated. 

The joy of going to a repertory company like the Stratford Festival for numerous years is that you see each actor in numerous different roles, and become familiar with different facets of their talent and stage presence. One of things that has always enamored Geraint Wyn Davies to me is his propensity to utilize his native Welsh accent. (As a proud, if somewhat diluted 1/32nd Welsh patriot, I am particularly susceptible to Welsh accents.) I hasten to point out that Mr. Wyn Davies's excellent Antony showed few signs of hailing from across the Severn... but I kind of wish he had. 

Director Chris Abraham's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream could have been expressly designed to push every single button possessed by Shakespearean purists. It plays with the text, adding lines to establish a framing device setting the play as an entertainment put on to celebrate the wedding of a gay couple. Lysander is played by a woman and as a woman, making Hermia's father's objection to his daughter's marriage a comment on marriage equality. Titania is played as a woman, but by one of two rather muscular men.

There are cell phones, pop songs, food fights, sight gags, and an on-stage pond that numerous people fall into. It's cluttered and overwhelming and OH MY GOODNESS IT IS SO MUCH FUN. I have never been a particular fan of A Midsummer Night's Dream, apart from the Pyramus and Thisbe bit, but this production instantly won a place in my heart. It is so full of joy, so full of fun, and is such an open celebration of love that, appropriately enough, I fell in love with it.

If you want "traditional" Shakespeare (whatever that might be), this is probably not the production for you. But if you want A LOT OF PURE, UNADULTERATED FUN wrapped up in a Shakespeare-shaped package, I can't think of a better thing to do than to see this show. 

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Is that enough gushing for now? Check back on Friday when I'll take a look at some of the non-Shakespearean productions. Also, take a look at my other Stratford Festival comics

The Ladies of Angiers, part 3

After spending Monday and Wednesday with the irrepressible Ladies of Angiers, I am sad to finally be saying farewell to them. They don't care. They're too busy boozing it up. 

Well, when we last left the Ladies, they had just fended off yet another attempt by John and Philip to strongarm them into declaring an allegiance...

OK, so somewhere along the way I totally abandoned the actual plot of King John, but never mind. This it how it should have ended. Everyone's much happier this way. Don't argue. 

Thanks to Brigit WilsonCarmen Grant, and Deidre Gillard-Rowlings for letting me co-opt their Elizabethan alter-egos for a week! 

The Ladies of Angiers, part 2

We follow up my post on Monday with a further look at the scandalous lives of the Ladies of Angiers (Brigit WilsonCarmen Grant, and Deidre Gillard-Rowlings), liberated from the pages of King John

On the left they are gambling with the Earl of Salisbury, while on the right Chatillon is serving them drinks at the poolside. Angiers is clearly the party town of the Loire Valley.

Anyways, here they are, back in King John again for some more negotiations.

I hasten to point out that, apart from the compulsive gambling habit, this comic is, in fact, totally true to the plot of King John, which could be uncharitably subtitled as "The Play Where Not One, But Two Kings Kind Of Act Like Idiots".

We round off the Ladies of Angiers on Friday. Stop by! There will be drinks*.

*There will not be actual drinks.

The Ladies of Angiers, part 1

My position as official/self-appointed Shakespearean internet humorist has given me licence to do things like stalk various Shakespearean actors on social media, under the guise of keeping my finger on the pulse of the Shakespearean zeitgeist. I particularly enjoy the little glimpses they offer into the backstage life of a production. And then sometimes they post things like this:

These are three lovely company members of the Stratford Festival (Brigit Wilson, Carmen Grant, and Deidre Gillard-Rowlings), who, over the past month, have been making the most of their roles as citizens of Angiers in the current candle-lit Original Practices production of King John. Now, I have scoured the text of King John, and nowhere do I find reference to either powder pink mopeds or bowling, so I am forced to admit that the self-styled Ladies of Angiers, despite their sober Elizabethan garb, have strayed rather monumentally from the Original Practices doctrine. However, I think we can all agree that that is to the greater benefit of the world at large.

Follow @HOOPOOHEART for the latest Ladies of Angiers adventures. I, meanwhile, have taken the liberty of re-inserting them back into King John...

Join us again on Wednesday for more Ladies of Angiers action!

Fun Facts About "King John"

So, I'm counting down the days until I get to go to the Stratford Festival. One of the Shakespeare plays they are performing this season is King John, which is definitely one of the less-popular Shakespeare plays. I saw it once on stage before, at Stratford in 2004, and have watched the 1984 BBC Shakespeare TV adaptation, but have never sat down and studied it. I'm in the process of reading the play, but here's what I've picked up so far from my other bits of research:

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I hope you read that carefully, because I've got a couple more King John comics lined up for next week! 

Three-Panel Plays, part 8

The Three-Panel Plays have finally made it past the Henries! Let's get to work summarizing the rest of the canon now, shall we?

Antony is holding Caesar's bloody robe in that second panel. My "bloody robe" drawing skills need work. 

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Just for fun, here is an alliterative summary of King John:

Plantagenet Pisses off Pope.
Pesky Prince Plummets Prematurely.
Plantagenet Poisoned by Priest. 

Stop by again on Monday, when we will be taking a look at King Lear and Love's Labour's Lost


See all Three-Panel Plays here!