Another Year, Another glorious batch of Shakespeare etc, at Stratford Ontario

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Image via Wikipedia

So this year we decided to see Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night”.
The excerpt from the Stratford Shakespeare festival website describes the play below:
“Shipwrecked on the coast of Illyria, Viola adopts male disguise and enters the service of Duke Orsino, only to find herself part of a triangle of unrequited love. Meanwhile, in the household of the Countess Olivia, Sir Toby Belch and his unruly companions trick Olivia’s strict and disapproving steward, Malvolio, into believing that she loves him. A festive riot of mischief-making and misplaced desire – perhaps the greatest romantic comedy of all time”.
Lots of duplicated characters, misplaced lovers and confusion. Sounds familiar as a plot but who cares, what always fascinates me about Shakespeare plays is the bawdy humour and his insight into human behaviour that has not changed in over 400 years.
When “acted” as opposed to reading from a school book, Shakespeare with its jokes and situations rooted in the past, becomes alive and relevant. Even kids get the comedies (on a different custard pie throwing level)
This season’s cast includes – amongst others – well-known Canadian actors (even to me) including:
Brian Dennehy as Sir Toby Belch (this name comes straight out of one of the fanous British “Carry On” movies of the 1960’s right?)
Stephen Ouimette as Sir Andrew Aguecheek.
The very funny Tom Rooney as Malvolio
Mike Shara as Orsino

What I didn’t get (and neither did many other people I spoke to) was the mish-mash of costumes spanning a number of different historical eras.
For instance, , Sir Toby Belch; Sir Andrew Aguecheek , most of the musicians and a few others were dressed in traditional Tudor garb. Malvolia and the brother and sister duo, Sebastien and Viola/Cesario were dressed in modern suits (theirs were white) with Malvolia looking like an accountant in a pin-stripe suit’ and to confuse even more Olivia actually switched eras several times with her costume changes – wearing Edwardian costumes one minute and then 1920’s tennis costumes in another scene etc.
Of course I understand that each producer (in this case Des McAnuff) wants to make his/her production fresh and memorable; maybe it’s an in-joke, or as someone told me it’s representative of some new “street-grunge” style that’s hitting the street perhaps in a bid to win over the younger demographic!! – can’t say I’ve heard that expression before but thinking about it, when some of the costumes are recognisable as “now” it probably does make Shakespeare less intimidating for younger “viewers”.
Whatever it was, I personally thought it was a marvellous approach to the production with the orchestra thrust into the action and featuring prominently in amongst the speaking cast members.
Also showing this season are:
The Grapes of Wrath
The Homecoming
Jesus Christ Superstar
The Little Years
The Merry Wives of Windsor
The Misanthrope
Richard III
Shapkespeare’s Will
Titus Andronicus
Call me thick but I hadn’t appreciated that the actors appeared in more than one play a day. Wow!!
Kind of wished we’d taken in more than 1 play over the weekend.
If you’re looking for eats whilst you’re there – I can only speak for the following:
Pazzo on Ontario street – – more oriented towards pre theatre diners upstairs.
” The Old Prune” hidden behind the main drag in Albert Street – – excellent for a “special” night out.
York Street Kitchen – – always jam packed with a line-up for their delicious imaginative sandwiches and salads. Just grab one and go eat on a park bench by the river just opposite
Balzac’s coffee was (in my opinion) the usual let-down with very slow and unhelpful service – shame I love their coffee at the Distillery district.
We spent one of the afternoons stealing the march on Christmas gifts as Stratford has the summer weekend “Crafts on the Green” ; an Irish Shop, British Shop; one of those wonderful all things Canadian stores and plenty of other “Don’t need to have” little boutiques.
Another we spent another strolling Stratford’s version of the river Avon – reminded me so much of walking along the River Thames in Oxford where we used to live. Cute little bridges ( although these were not stone), and rowing boats (although no punts), and where would any self-respecting Shakespearian town be without the swans. Weeping willows along both banks and romantic couples strolling hand in hand (not us) completed the illusion.
What a delightful slice of heaven this buzzing provincial town has revealed itself to be. I liked the place as soon as we set foot in it one snowy day in December a few years ago. At that point just 1 year into our emigration here, it reminded us a lot of a tiny version of Oxford with all the Victorian red brick buildings and an actual town square (Something you almost never see in Ontario towns which are mostly ribbon developments with the core off to the side somewhere!)
That’s my meanderings done with… click below for more info on the festival
Over and Out

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