Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Stratford Festival

A friend and I (no, it's not what you think) just got back from a few days at the Stratford Festival in Ontario. This summer celebration of theatre has been running for over 60 years, offering an annual playlist of various Shakespearian works, other classic plays, popular musicals and recent offerings by Canadian playwrights. Over the years the Festival has featured a wide array of the best Canadian, British and American actors.

We took in two plays by Shakespeare, both of which were excellent -- the ever-popular King Lear and the much less frequently staged King John. Colm Feore played the title role in King Lear. I've been a big fan of his movie and TV work for years so it was a tremendous thrill to see him live on stage.


[Stephen Ouimette (Fool) and
Colm Feore (Lear)]

Neither of us knew the plot of King John so the play was essentially brand new as we watched (a rare experience with Shakespeare). The always-excellent Tom McCamus played King John as a crazy weirdo with a fundamentally vicious and ruthless nature.


[Graham Abbey (Philip the Bastard) and
Tom McCamus (King John)]

The musical we saw was Crazy for You, an amalgam of various Gershwin hits held together by a ridiculous but funny plot. The dancing and staging were super high energy, to put it mildly. We were exhausted just watching them!


[Josh Franklin (Bobby Child) and
Natalie Daradich (Polly Baker)]

Seana McKenna outdid herself as Mother Courage in Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children. It's always good to be reminded of the uncomfortable truth that ultimately we are all collaborators in our own oppression.


[Seana McKenna (Mother Courage)]

The only play we didn't think too much of was the Restoration comedy The Beaux' Stratagem. It was way too arch and brittle for my taste but then again, who really cares -- I got to see Colm Feore again, LOL!


[Colm Feore (Archer) and
Mike Shara (Aimwell)]

We both adored Christina, The Girl King about the cross-dressing lesbian Queen of Sweden who lived in the mid-1600s. This recent Canadian play was written in French by the Quebec playwright Michel Marc Bouchard and performed in English for the first time at Stratford. It showed how Christina managed to successfully outmanoeuvre the Swedish court and the Lutheran church to become "the most free woman in the world, answerable neither to God nor man." Yay! Go, sistah, go!


[Photo credits: #1, #2 and #4 by David Hou; #3 and #6 by Cylla von Tiedemann; #5 by Michael Cooper; all © Stratford Festival]

32 comments:

Rosemary said...

Loved seeing this - my brother lives in Mississsauga, Toronto and always attends the Shakespeare Festival. He is a Shakespeare fanatic and I understand that over the years he has seen all of Shakespeare's works.

mxtodis123 said...

Sounds like you had a great time. That's a great festival.
Mary

Laurie M said...

I have always wanted to go, you must have had a great time, some great work!

jaz@octoberfarm said...

we used to go to this festival every year and we loved it!

Plowing Through Life (Martha) said...

Oh, what fun! What a great time you had. And the images here are amazing. Damn...too bad it's so far away from Kingston; we could have met!

DEZMOND said...

I do love me some Colm Feore... most people don't know his name, but remember his face and roles!

LL Cool Joe said...

You get to do and see a lot of interesting stuff. I'm not sure the plays would have been quite my cuppa tea, but I'm glad you enjoyed them, well apart from one.

Jenn said...

Love Colm Feore... and love, love the Stratford Festival. Looks like you took in quite a few performances!

Michael D'Agostino said...

I only understood half of those words, but it does sound amazing.

Missy George said...

That look like a really interesting time. Glad you got to do it. Fun festival.

Adam said...

It's been forever since I've seen a play

Ms Misantropia said...

There have been speculations that Kristina was lesbian, inter-sexual, trans-gender or a man in drag - but we will never know for sure.

Strange tale either way, a woman who was allowed to remain regent after abdicating and spending several decades away from her country.

Dawna said...

Sounds like a great time was had. I love stage plays. fell asleep during Othello once but thought it was great.. long.. but great
great pics

Francie M said...

I did read you were going to be in Stratford and would have inflicted myself univited upon you for a cuppa but I didn't have time - now I'm sorry I didn't - these look great - and there is nothing like seeing Shakespeare at Stratford. In Highschool we used to go once a year. So glad you had a great visit to Ontario!

ditchingthedog said...

I love live theatre! I would have love to have seen this. Since I can't, thank you for sharing. :-)

Guillaume said...

It is the right year to see Shakespeare. I saw King Lear, the production of the National Theatre directed by Sam Mendes, it was amazing.

The Spooky Whisk said...

Glad you had fun.

The Spooky Whisk said...

Got your comment. Did you try Wally World or Target? Those are two of the places here that carry it. Don't know about there though.

Magaly Guerrero said...

Love the diverse fun. And might be a tad jealous. But I'm not saying it!

Silke said...

Wow!! So many plays and they all look great! When we decided to move from Michigan to New Mexico, we drove up to the Festival during our last year in Michigan and thoroughly enjoyed it. At the same time, we visited (and loved) Toronto. What a great city! Fun, fun, fun!! xoxo Silke

The Spooky Whisk said...

Got your comment:

I flipped the i and a around wrong. Chia. My bad. Duh.

I dunno, hopefully Target will have it since it's a chain, but don't know. I would happily send you some if they wouldn't be crushed to bits and cost a million dollars to ship.

Professor Chaos said...

I never heard of "king John." Who knew Shakespeare had obscure plays?

Although, now that I think of it, I hadn't heard of Titus Andronicus either until Julie Taymor made a movie based on it. (worth watching for the visuals, Taymor is a genius)

Ol'Buzzard said...

I envy you: I so love playhouses, and especially Shakespeare.
the Ol'Buzzard

Vanessa Morgan said...

Wish I could have been there. I did Shakespeare studies at the university and love all the interpretations of his plays. Have you ever seen Shakespeare in London? In The Globe and such? A real delight. Those people live and breathe Shakespeare :-)

Willym said...

Wasn't the Mother Courage incredible? Not an ounce of sentiment but still heartbreaking. A marvelous production, though I'm sorry you didn't enjoy Beaux Stratagem - Laurent and I put it a close second behind the Courage as our favourites for this year. Too bad you missed the Alice - it was a remarkable staging. All in all a good year - Wish now we had seen the Kristina but there's only so much you can do in six days without going into overload. Hope you had some good food too?

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Hi Vanessa -- No, I've never had the pleasure of seeing Shakespeare performed at the Globe theatre in London. But I'd love to! Funnily enough, my friend and I were talking about how wonderful it would be to do a theatre tour of London. Maybe some day?

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Hi Willym -- Yes, we had some marvelous meals and some wonderful drinks too! And of course I bought chocolates at Rheo Thompson's store!

Riot Kitty said...

I love theater! Especially when they smooch.

Magic Love Crow said...

I haven't been to the Stratford Festival in years! I am so bad, since I don't live that far away!
I have to go! I would love to see everything you saw Debra!
Big Hugs ;o)

Laurent said...

Happy to hear you enjoyed yourself in Stratford. Such high quality theatre and good actors. I had seen Mother Courage many years ago but this new translation from the German is much better, I think, felt sorry for her in the end. Love all of Brecht theatre.
Chocolates at Rheo Thompson it's all good.

JACKIESUE said...

wow for you...and I think they made a movie about the Female King..

heartinhand said...

The whole "it's not what you think" makes me wonder if the lady doth protest too much? Lol!
I've always wanted to go to that festival. Bucket list!