{ thinking out loud about the things i care about }

Posts Tagged ‘theatre’

Unless the Gods Delight in Tragedies

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

I made my first of two annual trips to the Hawrelak Park amphitheatre on Tuesday for Edmonton’s FreeWill River City Shakespeare festival. We thought we were going to catch the comedy, Comedy of Errors, but it turns out we had our days switched and Titus Andronicus was showing instead.

Titus Andronicus is one of only six or seven Shakespeare plays I’ve never read, and the first time I’d seen Shakespeare performed without having read the source material, which was kind of a neat experience. Pair that with excellent staging and acting, and it was one heck of a night. Quite possibly the best version of a Shakespearean play I’ve seen done.

The staging and blocking was really well done. Often Shakespeare can feel drawn-out because directors don’t know what to do with all that talking, and an audience is left with nothing interesting to watch while they struggle following iambic pentametre. Other times there’s so much disconnected blocking — movement for movement’s sake — that it’s distracting.

The action seemed very purposeful in this play. Well-directed and thought-out, driven by character motivation and — most importantly — what was being said. It was an extraordinarily physical show, yet almost nothing felt tacked-on or extraneous. The physical flowed with the vocal performance, and actually assisted in conveying the meaning of the complicated Shakespearean speech-patterns in many places. The fight scenes were dynamic and engaging (best knife fight I’ve ever seen on stage, albeit too short), and the actors who portrayed Demetrius and Chiron created the creepiest pair of villans I’ve seen on the stage for some time.

In a genre of theatre that generally involves more off-screen than on-screen deaths, this show embraced and pushed the most graphic elements of the plot, whether they were sexual or violent, and tied with the post-modern setting and costuming, created a marvelously creepy and sinister world. The director and the cast didn’t ever let the audience off easy. Lavinia’s slow and anguished slide down the main stair after her assault was extended, brutal, and uncomfortable to watch on a starkly lit stage, and her tongueless cries were agonizing to listen to. Props to the actress who played Lavinia for committing so completely to the role and the moments that she did, which carried her character arc from innocent to assault to vengeance to death seamlessly and convincingly. It was chilling to watch her stare one-by-one into the faces of Chiron and Demetrius while her father sliced their throats and the blood drained into the bowl she was holding beneath them. Like, whoa. Props also for committing to the position she landed in for what must have been an agonizing fifteen minutes after her character was killed. Not easy.

This show gets a high recommendation from me. Hopefully Comedy of Errors is similarly well-done. I’ll find out when I see it next week!

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Wizard of Oz and Good Theatre Tech

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

I went to see The Wizard of Oz at the Citadel last night, and it was pretty good. The casting was well done, most of the singing was top-notch, the munchkin children were adorable, the dog was perfectly trained, and the design was visually very interesting. My only complaint is the same complain I have of every Bob Baker show that involves a lot of tech, which is that he doesn’t seem to know how to fill those tech-heavy moments with interest to deflect from the fact that you’re waiting for the tech to finish. Glinda flies in, but it takes too long for her to get to the ground, and they hold the dialogue until she does. Flying is cool, yes, but not really on its own unless there’s acrobatics involved. If you’re just bringing in Glinda and having her pose stiffly while you do it, why wait for the dialogue?

I like tech. I love tech. That’s why I went to technical theatre school. Don’t get me wrong, there was a lot of good tech in this show. But sometimes it was just tech for the sake of tech, which makes it feel tacked-on. Bob Baker is having this love affair with video projection right now, which can be really cool, but it can also just as easily slow everything down. At what could have been a point of high action during the tornado, everything slowed down to accommodate a too-long video interlude while Dorothy was flipped around half-heartedly on a bed, so the whole scene fell flat and over-extended for what it was. Good tech should be fully integrated, cohesive, and above all never displace or slow the drama; if it does, it should probably be re-examined or cut.

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Thursday, May 17th, 2007

So, Oliver wasn’t so bad. Certainly better than Peter Pan last year. The kids didn’t annoy me so much that I felt I might march up on stage and start telling them off for being irritating. The show was less about the boy Oliver than I expected. And, once again I have discovered another very popular Barbershop song started out as a musical theatre piece. Barbershoppers have edited it heavily – they only left in the upbeat happy parts – but that’s Barbershop for you. You’re not allowed to be depressed unless it’s about a girl who done broke your heart or a man that died in a war somewhere. Otherwise, you must be chipper at all times.

The female lead had a hell of a voice, though. Blew the top of the Shocter a couple of times. And it was neat to see Tim again. He was the kid we got to play young Guido in Nine last year, and he played the Artful Dodger well. I had heard they were getting all the kids to move around those set pieces and at first I was pretty skeptical, remembering what it was like getting kids to reliably and quickly move props and set pieces in Beauty and the Beast, but they did pretty well with a lot of complicated moves. It was still a little slow in some parts, but there were a lot of pieces moving on and off and round and round, so they did quite well considering the complexity of the moves.

Neat break-apart set, though, with each chunk of the stairway an independent piece. It allowed them to create some pretty amazing sets with what amounted to stair-shaped building blocks. Well thought out and mostly well executed.

Who knew Oliver was such a tragedy… I certainly didn’t. I mean, Oliver gets his happy ending, but he’s about the only one.

Does anyone else agree with me that the seats in the Shocter are about the most uncomfortable things to sit on in the entire world? No padding on the backs. I had trouble making it through the first act. My back is killing me today. Next time I’m stashing a pillow in my purse.

To all of you who are camping this weekend: bring your rain-boots and some thick jackets! In true May Long Weekend fashion, it’s going to be cold and rainy. Have fun in tents being cold. Suckers.


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