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review 2017-04-21 15:49
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead / Tom Stoppard
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead - Tom Stoppard

Hamlet told from the worm's-eye view of two minor characters, bewildered Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Echoes of Waiting for Godot resound, reality and illusion mix, and where fate leads heroes to a tragic but inevitable end.


Each of us is the star of our own life. You may be a bit part in someone else’s narrative, but in your own mind, yours is the story that matters. Or you may struggle to find meaning in your own life, like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in this play by Tom Stoppard.

Last night I attended a live broadcast of the National Theatre production, starring Daniel Radcliffe and Josh McGuire. The set was very simple and the dialog was copious and delivered rapidly. I couldn’t help but admire how well they knew their parts.

There was definitely a “Waiting for Godot” vibe to the production, as R & G wait for some kind of sign or direction as to what they are supposed to be doing.

A knowledge of Shakespeare’s Hamlet isn’t necessary to appreciate this play, but I think it enhances the viewer’s appreciation.


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review 2016-10-03 19:58
The Merchant of Venice / William Shakespeare
The Merchant of Venice - William Shakespeare

I attended a filmed version of this play, performed in the reconstructed Globe Theatre in London.  The costuming was wonderful, plus the music was excellent!  Jonathan Price was a convincing Shylock and his real-life daughter Phoebe played the role of Shylock’s daughter Jessica.  Between the two of them, they managed to make Antonio & the other Christians look like the monsters of the piece.


Of course I knew about the whole “pound of flesh” issue, but I didn’t know many other details of this play, which is controversial enough that it is not regularly performed.  I was pleasantly surprised to see the humour in the scenes which included Portia and her suitors and in the final scene where the disposal of rings becomes an issue.  It also made me smile as Portia and her maid Nerissa disguised themselves as men, in good Shakespearean tradition.  The role of Lancelot Gobbo was charmingly played by Stefan Adegbola, who brought to members of the audience to the stage to assist with his decisions to change masters.


A worthwhile play to attend, it is a thought-provoking piece and a must for every Shakespeare fan.

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review 2016-09-26 16:19
Richard III / William Shakespeare
Richard III - William Shakespeare


If ever there was a monarch who should have ended up buried under a car park, it is Shakespeare’s Richard III, “that bottled spider.”


I attended a performance of the play by Calgary’s Shakespeare Company and Richard was embodied by Haysam Kadri, who played Macbeth masterfully last year.  He plays the villain extremely well and gave us a Richard with an impish gleam in his eye, giving the audience wry asides about his plans.  I will go see this man in anything he should choose to act in—he is marvelous.  I heard him interviewed about the play on the radio Saturday morning, where he did the “winter of our discontent” soliloquy and I was immediately squee-ing like a fangirl. 


Conventional wisdom had it that Shakespeare had magnified Richard’s deformity, to match his twisted mind.  However, the body recovered from under the car park and identified as Richard III definitely had severe scoliosis.  Kadri must have needed badly to stretch after this performance, spending most of it bent over, with one heel rarely touching in the floor.


This was an abridged version of the play, condensed into a two hour performance.  As a result, the action seldom paused for very long and the plot proceeded at a break-neck pace.  A couple of the roles were gender-reversed, to make more parts for women in the production and that mostly worked (although there was one scene where the woman who played Catesby appeared as a dominatrix and it just seemed extremely awkward and out of place).  


Now I am just disappointed that I will be out of town during the next play, All’s Well That Ends Well and that they have chosen to remount the extremely successful Macbeth instead of choosing another play for this season.

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review 2016-09-18 20:39
Measure for Measure / William Shakespeare
Measure for Measure - William Shakespeare,Barbara A. Mowat,Paul Werstine

Measure for Measure is among the most passionately discussed of Shakespeare’s plays. In it, a duke temporarily removes himself from governing his city-state, deputizing a member of his administration, Angelo, to enforce the laws more rigorously. Angelo chooses as his first victim Claudio, condemning him to death because he impregnated Juliet before their marriage.

Claudio’s sister Isabella, who is entering a convent, pleads for her brother’s life. Angelo attempts to extort sex from her, but Isabella preserves her chastity. The duke, in disguise, eavesdrops as she tells her brother about Angelo’s behavior, then offers to ally himself with her against Angelo.


The last of Shakespeare’s comedies and I get the distinct impression that he was already done with that genre and somehow got convinced to do “just one more.” As part of my goal to see all of Shakespeare’s plays performed, I attended a screening of Measure for Measure, filmed in Stratford, England. If you struggle with Shakespeare, I can’t recommend highly enough that you see performances of his works, rather than try to read them. In this production, I appreciated how well they used the stage, the scenery, costumes, dance, and music. The actor who played Elbow and Barnardine was shaped like a cannonball, but was remarkably light on his feet and extremely agile. At one point, he amazed the audience by tumbling across the stage (as Elbow). The actor who played the Duke took some cues from John Cleese, who he reminded me forcibly of while “blessing” people and reciting religious invocations while pretending to be a friar.

Why do I think that Shakespeare was done with comedies? Well, the ending is happy, as required, but it felt artificial and contrived. The marriage between the Duke and Isabella just feels wrong—what happened to her strong religious vocation? Same issue with the marriage of Angelo & Mariana. Why would an eligible woman want to marry a man who rejected her when her dowry went missing and was so cold and unfeeling? Why on earth would she want to sleep with him, fooling him into thinking that she is Isabella? And yet, she happily complies with the Duke/Friar’s subterfuge and then willingly marries the man.

But the part of the play that resonated the most strongly with me was the point where Angelo has tried to make a bargain with Isabella, her virginity for the life of her brother. When she threatens to reveal his true nature to the world, he turns to her and says:

“Who will believe thee, Isabel? My unsoil’d name, th’ austereness of my life, My vouch against you, and my place i’ th’ state, Will so your accusation overweight, That you shall stifle in your own report, And smell of calumny.”

A cold shiver went down my back, and I couldn’t help but see Jian Ghomeshi in my mind’s eye, telling the women who he punched and mistreated, “I’m a celebrity. Do you think that anyone will believe you?” My God, this play was first performed at court in 1604 and here we are in 2016, and men are still saying this to the women whom they abuse! Its still “he said, she said” even in courts of law, as we continue to watch men get away with these crimes.

Anyone who thinks that Shakespeare is out of date hasn’t ever attended his plays. He deals with universal human issues that everyone can identify with.

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review 2016-05-25 15:28
Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Jersey Lily / Katie Forgette
Sherlock Holmes and The Case of the Jersey Lily (A Play) - Katie Forgette

I attended a performance of this play last night and thoroughly enjoyed it.  The actor portraying Sherlock Holmes, Haysam Kadri, is a great talent and our city is lucky to have him.  (I saw him last month starring in <i>MacBeth</i> and he owned the Scottish play). 


This play, at least as performed by Vertigo Theatre, is frothy and entertaining.  When Sherlock Holmes and Oscar Wilde meet onstage, it can only mean good things.  There were a lot of knowing jokes, based on the current audience’s knowledge of historical events, a lot of references to the many witty epigrams that Wilde is famous for.


I maybe would caution the Sherlock Holmes purist—I know of at least one person who might get a bit sniffy about the portrayal of Dr. Moriarty!  He is a caricature of a comic book villain, not the deadly foe that Conan Doyle wrote in <i>The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes</i>.  Played for laughs and delivering them, he is never a serious adversary in this particular play.  Think more of Boris Badenov in the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show or Dr. Evil in the Austin Powers films.


My cousin enjoyed the play too, perhaps assisted by the fact that she hasn’t read Conan Doyle’s Sherlock and therefore wasn’t at all bothered by matters related to the Holmes canon.

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