The Adventures of Pericles

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Seen June24 2015, Tom Patterson Theatre, Stratford Ontario

Written by William Shakespeare

Directed by Scott Wentworth

Stratford’s pledge to perform Shakespeare‘s entire canon within the next decade gives the opportunity to (re)discover plays that are not often performed. Last year, King John was one of the biggest surprises for us, so we didn’t hestiate to get tickets for Pericles.

I have to admit not really knowing the play, but from what I read about the original text so far, there must have been a vast amount of editing necessary. The title character Pericles, a prince, has a knack for getting lost at sea and ending up in different kingdoms. The kings and princesses he encounters are brilliantly played by Wayne Best and Deborah Hay, who even ends up playing Pericles‘ daughter Marina.

Having the actors portray several characters was a clever play by director Scott Wentworth, who also added Diane (Marion Adler) instead of the Chorus as a link between the kingdoms and storylines. Unfortunately, some didn’t realise what was going on; the ladies in front of me in the line for the washrooms complained about the kings and their daughters looking too similar and thought, they should have cast actors that looked less alike. Whoopsie.

I thought the differences in the characters were well acted, so I wasn’t confused. Our friend who didn’t know about it beforehand said she needed a moment to realise after the first switch, but then it was all good. And she’d like to add that the incest storyline was disgusting. Which Pericles apparently thought as well, getting out of there as quickly as possible.

What the play itself may lack, direction and actors compensated for. It was a suspensful production that also made most with very little props and I’d like to give special kudos to Sean Arbuckle, who stepped in as the title character Pericles for Evan Buliung the evening we saw the play.

Of course the cast does play a role in choosing which plays to watch – along with the director – but in the end, the play’s the thing. When I read that the role of Pericles was to be played by Sean Arbuckle instead of Evan Buliung for the performance we went to, I wasn’t worried in the least. After all, who better to have adventures at sea than a former pirate king?

If I was a betting woman, I’d wager that several people in the audience didn’t even realise the actor playing Pericles wasn’t the guy hired to do so every night. It also highlights the wealth of good actors this company has. This wasn’t the first time we got to see an understudy shine in a title role in Stratford.

The only thing that irks me about it is that I’m always left wondering what the other actor would have done differently and cursing the fact that I can’t just come back later in the season to rewatch the play, but that’s what we call complaining on a high level.

If you want to see a Shakespeare play where you don’t think you know everything that is going to happen, go see The Adventures of Pericles.

 

 

 

King John

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Seen September 6, Tom Patterson Theatre

Cast: Tom McCamus, Patricia Collins, Andrew Lawrie, Jennifer Mogbock, Brad Rudy, Stephen Russell, Sean Arbuckle, Wayne Best, Daniel Briere, Graham Abbey, Brigit Wilson, Ryan Field, Peter Hutt, Adrew Robinson, Rylan , Wilkie, Jamie Mac, Anthony Malarky, Antoine Yared, Noah Jalava, Seana McKenna, E.B. Smith, André Morin, Karack Osborn, Carmen Grant, Deirdre Gillard-Rowlings, Brian Tree

Directed by Tim Carroll

Somewhere over the Atlantic now and still bumpy. The 10 fingers typing system gets interesting when netbook and hands are moving in different directions….

King John was our last play in Stratford this year, but also a first; out of the three of us, none had ever read or seen it, so we really weren’t prepared for the Graham Abbey show that was the first half of the play. It was absolutely hilarious and a few teenagers in the first row are probably never going to forget that making a loud noise during a performance can lead to you being dragged into things for the rest of the night.

To those who read my previous posts: you are probably going to think I’m repeating myself when I’m saying how great the entire cast was, but it’s true. I am not going to point out every single cast member – even though they would have deserved it – but I would watch the Abbey/McCamus (who is brilliant in reacting via facial expressions alone)/Arbuckle comedy hour any time, this (and Mother Courage) might be the best I’ve seen Peter Hutt do so far and the person who found Noah Jalava, who plays young Arthur should get an award. Most adults would have trouble with that many lines and the kid not only memorised them perfectly, but also displayed quite some acting talent.

There was one side-effect of the witty first half of the play: walking out, we heard several patrons complain that the second part wasn’t as funny as the first one. King John isn’t that well known and apparently the shenanigans at the beginning led some to believe they were watching a comedy which resulted in disappointment later on.

Speaking of shanenigans, if you are on Twitter you might want to check out the Ladies of Angiers (#ladiesofangiers) to see what they have been up to in Stratford in the last months.

One issue I had with the play: if that’s the way Austrians are being treated in Stratford now we might have to reconsider future visits 😉

Mother Courage and Her Children

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Seen: September 6 (Matinée), Tom Patterson Theatre

Cast: Seana McKenna, E.B. Smith, Antoine Yared, Carmen Grant, Randy Hughson, Wayne Best, Sean Arbuckle, Geraint Wyn Davies, Ben Carlson, Peter Hutt, Daniel Briere, Deidre Gillard-Rowlings, Jennifer Mogbock, Anthony Malarky, André Morin, Brad Rudy, Karack Osborn, Stephen Russell, Jamie Mac, Andrew Lawrie, Ryan Field, Brigit Wilson, Patricia Collins, Andrew Robinson, Cal Potter, Laura Burton

Directed by Martha Henry

Firstly, apologies for the delay in writing this. Not only were we running around like headless chickens during our time left in Toronto, for some reason it’s possible to get a decent internet connection in Stratford but not in the big city, so I couln’t have uploaded the remaining two reviews anyway. If you can read this, the connection over the pond was stronger 😉

We are currently getting shaken through over Newfoundland on the way to London where we are going to see The Crucible at the Old Vic later today and Richard III at the Trafalgar Studios tomorrow night before going back to Vienna (and a live screening of A Streetcar Named Desire), so there will be more posts some time next week.

There seems to be a second motto in Stratford this season next to ‚Minds Pushed to the Edge‘: Actors Mingling with the Audience. Before Mother Courage and her Children (Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder) started, some of the actors were walking around, chatting up unsuspecting patrons.

The stage was bare except for a chopping block and a ramp and of course once the play got underway Mother Courage’s wagon – both home and business to her and her children.

I have to admit I don’t care much for Bert Brecht or the play. German can be a harsh sounding language at the best of times, to me Brecht manages to make it sound downright ugly. I was still willing to give Mother Courage another try, not only because my sister wanted to see it and I was courious how it would be handled, but also because it’s sadly very current again with all the conflicts rising up in the last years. And of course it was performed in English.

When the cast and director were announced, it was getting clear that the play was in very good hands. Martha Henry is not only a great actress, but once more proved that she’s brilliant behind the scenes too. Seana McKenna is a formidable Mother Courage who almost made me sympathise with the character. Carmen Grant, Ben Carlson and Geraint Wyn-Davies are not just accompanying her along the way and help illustrate different phases and relationships in her life, their characters are all interesting and important to the story in their own right. Grant’s Kattrin is speaking volumes without a single line of text.

While I am never going to be a fan of Brecht’s, I actually really liked this simply staged and well-acted production and really recommend it.

PS: ‚Fichtelgebirge‘ really isn’t pronounced like that 😉