KW & Beyond
by Irena Syrokomla
Stratford Festival of Canada – London Assurance
Directed by Brian Bedford, and starring Brian Bedford in the central role of Sir Harcourt Courtly, this is classic British farce at its best, written by Dion Boucicault in 1841. From the moment the curtain opened to the over-exaggerated detailed - almost baroque - set, with spontaneous applause from the audience, through the second applause when Bedford appears on stage with his hair and costume in full view, to the several cameo performances, the play was received with laughter and joy and appreciation.
There was no other way to present London Assurance but as a parody and over-exaggeration, with grand overstatements and meaningful pauses, so that the audience has time to laugh, applaud and savour the moments. If this production had been more serious, it would show its outdated style and subject. Since there is really no depth to it, and it is 165 years old, it has to be more than a satire on the foolishness and vanities of 19th century society, and to appeal to an audience in 2006 it needed to be a full-fledged farce. And it works!
It is a simple story of an ageing London roué intending to marry a young wealthy heiress to satisfy the will conditions of his friend. Surprisingly he finds his own son to be his rival for the affections of a young and very practical lady, and he himself being attracted to a married lady, who is known for her horse riding skills and the use of the crop. Of course, all ends well as it should, and laughter carries on for the long time after the closing of the curtain.
The stage design of Desmond Heeley is wonderful in its details and appreciation for the era, the acting was superb, the characters so classic and laughable, hard to tell who was the best – they were all great. Let me just mention Seana McKenna as Lady Gay Spanker, Keith Dinicol as Cool (the valet) and Tim MacDonald as a classic country solicitor, Mark Meddle. Other supporting actors were very good as well.
The Avon Theatre was full, Stratford was welcoming as usual, with parking available within walking distance, the swans on the river as handsome as always. There are other plays coming this summer, classic Shakespeare, rarely staged Ibsen, two musicals and several others. There is certainly a choice between great classic as well as modern innovative theatre, some entertainment, and music.
The box office phone is 1-800-567-1600 or see the schedules and choices on the web site www.stratfordfestival.ca.
Drayton Entertainment - St. Jacobs Country Playhouse – Cats
Drayton Entertainment has a total of five locations in its jurisdiction, from St. Jacobs Country Playhouse in north Waterloo to St. Jacobs Schoolhouse in St. Jacobs to Drayton’s Festival Theatre, Grand Bend’s Playhouse II, and King’s Warf Theatre in Penetanguishene. This is a large area to cover. For some unknown reason I have not had an opportunity to see any of their productions, so this is my first opportunity to assess their professionalism and talents. Alex Mustakas, the artistic director of Drayton Entertainment, is an ambitious man with considerable experience and his recent interview in the local news related the possibility of establishing another theatre in Cambridge. The potential number of 100,000 patrons for a 500-seat theatre must include visitors from a broader region, as I have my doubts that Cambridge itself could supply such a number.
Now, about Cats. I saw Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Cats about 18 years ago in Toronto when it was still a very innovative performance. It was, and still is, different than any other well-known musical, as it has practically no plot, and the stage design is a huge junkyard – a natural habitat for a collection of cats, each one with a different story and personality.
The music is early Andrew Lloyd Weber, with the emotional and beautiful songs and melodies we have heard many times over the years. Sometimes they sound like opera, or jazz, sometimes they are pure lyrics and blues. The lyrics come from T.S.Eliott Book of Practical Cats and it is amazing how they fit and suit the show.
The show is directed by Dave Campbell and choreographed by Gino Berti. They are both known in their field and are again successful in their vision of the cats’ world. The stage design of a junkyard is by Tim Webb. The collection of the old car, the stove, garbage can, baby stroller, and vacuum cleaner is transferred at times into a sailboat and then a train – and the cats play and live in it. What ideas!
The actors/singers are great. They move and act like cats, with the slinky grace of felines. Janet Martin sings Memory as Grizabella, Kelly Robertson plays Growltiger, Mike Jackson is Rum Tum Tugger, and Michael Faigaux sings the part of Mr. Mistoffelees. All are professionals with many shows done in the past.
Together it is definitely a show worth recommending. What a treat!
If you have not seen it before, and even if you have seen it, this is an opportunity, right here at the St.Jacobs Market to see Cats. It is running till August 5 with numerous performances, also matinees. The box office number is 519-747-7788 and the web site www.stjackobscountryplayhouse.com. On www.draytonentertainment.com you can also see summer program for the other stages and maybe include it in your summer outings. Have a great summer!
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