by Irena Syrokomla
Stratford Festival Visitors’ Guide 2006 and Shaw
Festival 2006 arrived in my mail box mid December. Colourful,
attractive, with maps, references and photographs, it is hard even to say
getting better – because these brochures have been absolutely excellent for
years. Not only do they provide the theatrical schedule and notes on the
plays, but also the calendars, accommodations, restaurants and other
possible activities. Like additional concerts, meetings with the actors or
producers, presentations of behind-the-scene theatrical activities, special
weekend packages - all possible reasons why one would take a whole weekend
or for that matter several weekends to attend the plays and enjoy the towns.
The graphic side of the guides is excellent and somehow one does not feel
overwhelmed with advertising.
Stratford Festival of Canada – 2006
Richard Monette, the Artistic Director of the Festival, is not falling short in his selection which totals 15 plays: the four Shakespeare plays are Coriolanus, with Colm Feore in the title role, Henry IV Part 1, with James Blendick, two comedies Twelfth Night and Much Ado About Nothing. The best known heavy classics have been staged in recent years, so the coming season provides an opportunity to see less popular works. I vaguely remember Coriolanus from years ago and recommend it as a change from British genre. Although it seems the Roman history could be equally bloody and the rulers equally vindictive.
Some other classics are The Duchess of Malfi by John Webster, rarely staged and not appreciated as it should be, Don Juan by Moliere – with Colm Feore again and being offered in English plus several performances in French. This is an interesting alternative for real connoisseurs or special for the francophone tourists.
This summer’s musical is South Pacific by Rogers and Hammerstein with Cynthia Dale in the leading role. Some of us can recall it as a Hollywood movie from a long time ago. And I hold a great deal of trust in the staging and an orchestral capability of the Festival. It was time to refresh it! For the family entertainment the Festival is presenting Oliver! based on the Dickens’ novel.
Which leaves us with a choice of less traditional plays: Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie – one should see it at least once in a lifetime, I have seen it possibly three times and every time come out with a different impression as to what the director wanted to achieve.
It is the 100-year anniversary of the death of Henrik Ibsen, so a number of theatres are producing his plays: in Stratford it is Ghosts, one of his murky works. At the smaller and more intimate Studio Theatre, an interesting twist on Shakespeare’s Othello is Harlem Duet, a story of Othello’s first wife being abandoned for a white Mona. It is a story of betrayal personal, cultural and political and it looks very interesting. The second performance at The Studio is Fanny Kemble, a play about the 19th century Shakespearian actress, a passionate abolitionist. It has been commissioned by the Stratford Festival for the Festival, and is a world premiere.
Which leaves us with several lighter fare to consider: London Assurance with Brian Bedford and James Blendick, The Blonde, the Brunette and the Vengeful Redhead, an Australian one-actress play and finally The Liar by Pierre Corneille. These are guaranteed pure entertainment.
It is the season very much to look forward to. The
Stratford Festival Visitor’s Guide 2006 lists other attractions, the
musical evenings, university courses, and meetings with writers, pre-theatre
gatherings and tours, and all other attractions, restaurants, B&B and
shopping. Box office number is 1-800-567-1600 and web side
earlier you book the better chance to get the seat you want.
Shaw Festival 2006
Niagara-on-the-Lake is settling with Jackie Maxwell as the Artistic Director and the program is a bit more cohesive. Again there are 10 plays to choose from: from the Shaw’s collection Arms and The Man and Too True To Be Good, both comedies, both wonderful classics in costume and design. One may attend a variety of theatres and never see them, so this is a good opportunity to enjoy them.
Some other plays from the era are The Heiress by Ruth Goetz, set in the 1850’s, The Magic Fire – a drama inside a comedy set in the steamy Buenos Aires in the middle of Eva Peron’s time, and a musical by Cole Porter High Society,
another comedy with charm and style, costumes and memorable musical tunes.
Several light comedies this coming season are: Anton Chekhov’s Love Among the Russians (it is not a serious depressing Chekhov but vaudeville for a change!), and Design for Living by Noel Coward directed by Morris Panych, some kind of love triangle, I understand. The Invisible Man adapted from H.G.Wells novel will be a guaranteed hit, and a very interesting challenge for a designer. I am really looking forward to it!
The gesture towards more serious plays are: The Crucible directed by Tadeusz Bradecki, selected many times by student theatres for the sake of historical debates, and in tribute to Ibsen’s anniversary Rosmersholm, which is another gloomy complex play, with a limited cast and a shocking conclusion.
Altogether, this is an excellent combination of plays from Shaw and his times, some comedies, some classics, some new. Evenings or the weekends at Niagara-on-the-Lake have always been something to plan and look forward to,
And it’s an easy drive from Toronto, Hamilton or Kitchener-Waterloo area.
Shaw Festival 2006 Guide can be obtained by calling Shaw Festival Box Office at 1-800-511-7429 or through the website www.shawfest.com. In the past I have found the local Chamber of Commerce to be very helpful in recommending and assuring the reservations be it the Bed & Breakfast variety or the local hotels. The telephone number is 1-888-619-5981 or www.niagaraonthelake.com.
Rest assured I will be writing about the plays I plan to attend and will keep you posted about other interesting cultural events in K-W and beyond.
Happy New Year!
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