Stratford Shakespeare Festival

As many of you know we live in Stratford, Ontario. What many of you may not realize is that Stratford is home to the annual Stratford Shakespeare Festival. Each year the festival puts on around 12 or so plays – with the headliners typically being Shakespeare’s and the rest being from well-known and lesser known playwrights.
So far this year we’ve seen 3 out of the 14 plays this year. The plays we’ve seen at this point are below with my mini-review.
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(A) MacBeth – I read MacBeth in high school and enjoyed the story. Part of the enjoyment was the time and setting of the play. In this version of the play the setting was civil war ravaged Africa, with the time period being indetermined, but appears to be the late 20th centry. I wasn’t a big fan of this change from the original play – I can understand that the themes of the play could be forced to fit in this setting. The problem is that it felt forced.
Colm Feore played the lead, MacBeth. Colm is a little bit of a celebrity in Canada and you may have seen him on 24 or Battlestar Galactica. He played the played amazingly. There were many other outstanding performances, though at some point the number of characters made the story a little confusing – even for someone who had read the play (albeit it was over 10 years ago).
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(B) A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Another Shakespeare play. I read this play on my own (meaning I wasn’t forced to in high schoo). As most people know this is one of Shakespeare’s comedies, which typically involved love triangles, slapstick, misunderstanding and this version of the play didn’t disappoint. As always “The Mechanicals” were hillarious, led by the comedy keystone character of Bottom (played brilliantly by Geraint Wyn Davies). The costumes were divided between the 1950’s for the human characters and anywhere from the 1960s to the 1980s for the fairie-folk. Actually the Robin Goodfellow (aka Pan) character reminded me of Phil Spector or Lou Reed.
The play was great (despite what the “professional reviewers” may say). I’ve always enjoyed this play and if you haven’t seen it check out your local theater pages for a local production (or come to Stratford and see it).
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(C) Zastrozzi – This play is based on a novel by Percy Bysshe Shelley. The playwright is Canadian George F. Walker. This was performed in one of the smaller theaters at Stratford which gave it a much more intimate feeling – which I believe was required for a play that only had 6 characters in it.
The play is about the master criminal Zastrozzi, who takes it upon himself to “judge” artists. If their work is judged to be mediocre the sentence is death. The play revolves around his obsession with Verezzi, a mediocre painter who is partially responsible for the death of his mother.
The ensemble cast did an excellent job in drawing us into the gothic work of the late 1800’s. The minimal sets props, brilliant use of lighting and the intimate setting allowed the audience to become immersed in their world and learn to empathise and despise the characters involved.
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We have tickets for two more plays over the next two weeks – we are seeing Cyrano DeBergerac tomorrow night and Julius Caeser next week. Excited about these and I’ll post mini-reviews on them!

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