Review of "Pericles" at the Stratford Festival

OK, I'm trying something a bit different today... a review! I love going to the theatre, but I've never written actual reviews of the productions I've seen. Mostly this is because I am a terrible reviewer. I'm fairly easy to please and without any of the critical discretion of more seasoned reviewers. I'm also very soft-hearted, so if I didn't enjoy a production I am more likely to pretend I never saw it in the first place rather than say anything negative about it. But let's give it a try! The guinea pig I have selected is the first show that I saw at the Stratford Festival this season.... Pericles!

Now, the gentleman I was sitting next to might just be overly full of joie de vivre, but to have someone who, at the beginning of the show asked me "is the language in this play the sort of Shakespeare language you have to translate constantly in your head?", turn around at the end and say "That was terrific, everyone should see this!" is quite a positive testimonial. Especially because this was Pericles. And, let's face it, Pericles is nowhere near one of Shakespeare's more accessible plays. 

The only other time I've seen Pericles was again at the Stratford Festival, about twelve years ago. That was a decent production too, but this one was definitely cleaner, much easier to follow, and more stylistically cohesive. As I always say, I'm fairly frivolous and can get quite impatient with directorial Concepts (with a capital C) but in this case the Victorian concept definitely served the play, as opposed to being imposed upon it. I particularly enjoyed the double-casting (which I enjoy anyways, but which actively enriched the production in this case.)

I really don't need to say that the acting and the language-speaking were superb, because that's almost always the case at Stratford. Special mention to Deborah Hay, whose gigantic brimming limpid eyes in the already emotionally-fraught reunion scene managed to sneak through the chinks in my fairly robust emotional armor. 

Pericles isn't performed all that often, so, if you can, take an opportunity to see this production. (If you're on the other side of the continent, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is also mounting a production this season, and so you should totally see that one and then tell me how it is.)

Kids Read Comics Convention

I've been plastering this all over social media, but forgot to re-mention it here! This week, June 20-21, is the Kids Read Comics Convention in Michigan! Specifically, it's at the Ann Arbor District Library. I will be there both Saturday and Sunday, from 12pm to 6:00pm, selling a variety of Good Tickle Brain merchandise, including t-shirts! Here's a sneak peek and some of the stuff I'll be presenting:

If you're in the Southeastern Michigan area, stop by and say hello! I'm a very nice person and would love to chat with you, so don't be shy. If you're NOT in the Southeastern Michigan area, don't worry! In a couple weeks (hopefully, tech gods and my own limited intellect permitting) I will be launching my online store and you'll be able to order shirts and other merchandise there.

Hope to see some of you there!

The Stratford Festival 2015 Season... in 3 Panels!

It's that infuriating time of year when shows at the Stratford Festival in Canada (which I have been patronizing since the extremely early age of three) start opening. I say "infuriating" because I'm not going to be able to see any of these shows until my family vacation in August, and so for the next few months I have to enduring tantalizing hints on social media as to how cool these shows are going to be. It's like giving a starving man a plate of wax fruit.

(If anyone from the Festival reads this and feels like giving me free tickets to come up earlier, I should state that my schedule is extremely flexible and I have my own transportation. I also wasn't able to fit Anne Frank and Possible Worlds into our August trip, so if you have any spare tickets lying around for those shows in particular, that would be... I'm sounding a bit desperate, aren't I... sorry... sorry... carry on...)

Anyways... here is the line-up for the Stratford Festival's current season, with the theme of "Discovery: That Eureka Moment".

Things that Hamlet discovers: (a) his uncle killed his father, (b) plotting revenge is more complicated than he thought, (c) don't stab random curtains.

Things that Maria discovers: (a) seven is a lot of children, (b) curtains make great play-clothes, (c) most of life's problems can be solved if you just sing a lot.

Oh Carousel... You're so problematic... So very problematic...

Things that Billy discovers: (a) armed robbery is not a career opportunity, (b) killing yourself doesn't actually make things easier for your family, (c) you can steal stars, which hitherto we had thought were giant balls of flaming gas, but are actually cute little sparkly things symbolizing hope and reconciliation and stuff like that.

Things that Anne discovers: (a) even in the darkest times, the human spirit remains indomitable and free, (b) it's not always easy living in very close proximity with people for two years. 

Oh Taming of the Shrew... You're so problematic... So very problematic...

Things that Petruchio discovers: (a) ... I can't actually write anything here because, depending on directorial interpretation, he could either discover that that his grubbing pursuit of money has, in fact, led him to discover true happiness with a soulmate who is his intellectual and emotional equal, or he could discover that marrying a woman for her dowry and then emotionally and physically abusing her is a great way to get rich quick. Or anything in between those two. 

Things that Kate discovers: (a) upper-class English men are idiots.

....sorry, I've never seen this play before, that's all I've got. 

Things that Mobius discovers: (a) when you're hiding out in an insane asylum, you shouldn't be surprised if things get a little bit crazy.

I've never seen this play either. There are some fun plot developments in it that I've tried not to spoil. (SPOILER: HIS UNCLE KILLED HIS FATH-- no wait, wrong play.)

Things that Face and Subtle discover: (a) people are essentially gullible idiots, (b) when people stop being gullible idiots, you had better run for it.

This will be only the second Ben Jonson play I have ever seen! I am so very excited. 

Things that the boys discover: (a) don't make impetuous vows of celibacy, (b) don't write incriminating letters proving that you're planning to break your impetuous vows of celibacy, (c) don't try to fool the girls, because they are much smarter than you.

I've seen a lot of Love's Labour's Losts recently and am becoming very fond of it. Looking forward to this production.

Things that Oedipus discovers: (a) he murdered his father, (b) he married his mother.

End of story.

Things that George discovers: (a) that he's actually [SPOILER]

I haven't seen this one either. I'm digging its Star Trek vibe, though. 

OK, this is a TOTALLY NEW PLAY that will be making its debut at the Festival this season, so I obviously haven't seen it or read it or even been able to look up its summary on Wikipedia. It appears to be a contemporary account of Katherine Parr, the last wife of Henry VIII. So I have no idea what Kate discovers. 

Things that Pericles discovers: (a) he shouldn't throw people overboard without making sure that they're dead, (b) he shouldn't leave his daughter with dubious babysitters and then never go back to pick her up.

Come on, Pericles. Get your act together.

So anyways, that's my round-up of the Stratford Festival's upcoming season. If you've followed my stuff for a while, you'll know that I'm very fond of the Festival, and that they reliably put on very high quality productions of both classical and contemporary plays, so if you're anywhere near Ontario you really should make an effort to stop by and see a couple shows. 

(I should note that the Stratford Festival is not bribing me to shamelessly promote their season. I genuinely think they're awesome and super-fun.)

Don't Riddle Me This

Oh Pericles. You're such a wonderfully bizarre play. 

In case you haven't seen Pericles, it starts out with the noble Prince Pericles visiting the kingdom of Antiochus, whose beautiful daughter is up for grabs to whoever can solve a mysterious riddle. Of course, if you get the riddle wrong you die. That's the way these things usually work.

Seriously, Antiochus, that's the best riddle you could come up with? I defy you to write a riddle about an incestuous father-daughter relationship that is more obvious than that. 

Premature Burial

So, this is a recurring issue in the Shakespearean canon:

I know Elizabethan medicine wasn't exactly state-of-the-art, but I'm constantly appalled at how readily people jump to conclusion of "Oh no, she's dead, let's dump the body somewhere" after someone falls over. Then again, these are the same people who say "You know, it's remarkable how you, a boy, look exactly like a girl, but are, in fact, totally a boy".

What I'm saying is that Shakespeare's characters are criminally unobservant. That's what I'm saying. 

Three-Panel Plays, part 13

Another Wednesday, another set of Three-Panel Plays. Today, a tragedy and a... OK, nobody really knows what Pericles is supposed to be. Comedy, romance, problem-play. Take your pick.

I'm not a huge fan of Othello, but Emilia is easily one of my favorite characters in the canon. In every performance that I've seen, Emilia has always been positively electric in the final scene, calling out Othello for being an idiot and Iago for being a total scumbag. "Villainy, villainy, villainy! I think upon it, I think. I smell it. O villainy!" You go, Emilia. 

I was lucky enough to see a production of Pericles at the Stratford Festival, which remains the only time I have see the play. It was a totally confusing mish-mash of melodrama and scene changes, but it was also quite a lot of fun. I'll have to track down the BBC TV production and take another look at it. 

Tune in again on Friday, when we'll have a brace of Richards, with the second and third of that name showing up. 

See all Three-Panel Plays here!