fajrdrako: (Default)


I went to see Penny Plain at the National Arts Centre. A play done entirely with puppets. And not for kids - tickets were not sold to those under fourteen.

I have a friend who is a puppeteer, and Ronnie Burkett is one of her heroes. I really didn't know what to expect.



It didn't convert me to a love of puppetry, for two reasons that have nothing to do with the story. First, the voices: there was too much shouting. As is often the case in animation, they didn't sound like normal voices, or normal speech.

Second, the body language. They looked like people (more or less) or dogs, as the case may be. But they didn't move like people. Or dogs. The best was the baby with a plastic-bottle head, who moved rather like a real baby in the end.

The story was... I wasn't sure what to make of it. It struck me as either pretentious our formless, or possibly both. It's about a post-apocalyptic Canada, seen through the eyes of the boarders in Penny Plain's boarding-house, and their various misadventures. None of it engaged or convinced me much, though it had its moments. The sense of humour (mostly dark and/or scatological) passed me by. My favourite bit was when the crazy old lady bricked the invading Americans up in the basement and her daughter was angry because they could have eaten them. I rather appreciated the very end, with the baby crying, too.

I'm still not sure if I just didn't get the point, or if there was such a lack of structure there was no point to get.

At the end, when Ronnie Burkett stepped off his platform and took his bows, I had a moment of shock how big he was. My eyes had grown accustomed to the pint-sized puppets.

fajrdrako: (Default)




I watched Jesus Christ Superstar this evening for the second time in a week. Not the movie; it was the Indigo Girls version on YouTube. The most amazing thing is: I never knew this existed. I blame [livejournal.com profile] walkingowl for not telling me! She was my link to information about the Indigo Girls. I bet she'd love this... if she never saw it. I don't think she did.

Amy Ray makes an awesome Jesus. Love her costumes.

Given that the music is essentially the same and the words are identical, I can't imagine the show being less like the one I saw in Stratford.

fajrdrako: (Default)




Today I saw Jesus Christ Superstar at the Avon Theatre in Stratford, Ontario.

It was amazing. Some of the best staging and costuming I've ever seen, not to mention singing, dancing, acrobatics, and acting.

I saw this show in London, England in 1976. I knew the music; I didn't expect to be thrilled by it. But the show was so strong it was unforgettable; and I totally fell in love with that Jesus. For me, Jesus is usually a hard sell.

This show was just as strong, but it was the ensemble, the performances, and the stagecraft that were breathtaking: Jesus as played by Paul Nolan himself was less of a standout. More detached, more inner-directed, more vulnerable, less powerful in his presence.

It was Judas here, who was the stunning, tragic, memorable personality, mainly with the power of Josh Young's voice and acting.



Chilina Kennedy put across a very sweet and lovely Mary Magdeline.

Both were superb productions; they just had different strengths.



I realized more this time than I did in the 1970s what an amazing achievement this musical is. A show about Jesus that is equally effective for Christians and non-Christians - and which has some rather remarkable music.

~ ~ ~

A few online clips:


And a few other clips of Josh Young:

[livejournal.com profile] maaseru's comment about Josh Young: "If they take this version of Jesus Christ Superstar to Broadway, he's going to be very famous very soon."

fajrdrako: ([Pirate])




Went to see Antony and Cleopatra tonight. I've loved that play since we studied it in grade 13, and I thought it was delightfully slashy. Not just Antony and Enobarbus, but also Cleopatra and Charmian. And it's full of great bits.

I saw it in Windsor Park this evening, on the Rideau River, with [personal profile] deakat, , [livejournal.com profile] auriaephiala, [personal profile] random, [personal profile] commodorified, [livejournal.com profile] raynedaze, Lindsay, Beulah, and Beulah's friend Peggy. It was performed by Company of Fools, which I happen to think is the best group of actors in Ottawa. They do the most accessible Shakespeare I've ever seen. Kids love their productions. Heck, even dogs love their productions. And so do I.

As usual, my favourite character was Enobarbus, played here by Cari Leslie - who happens to be both female and beautiful, which inverted but did nothing to diminish my sense of the slash potential. Antony, sadly, was not as attractive, as interesting, or as charismatic as Cleopatra (played by Catriona Leger).

Since it was played out of doors, I was able to take photos:


Pompey's rowdy party.
Left to right: Pompey the Pirate (Cari Leslie), Menas (Katie Bunting), Octavian (Stewart Matthews), Lepidus (Geoff McBride), and Marc Antony (Richard Gélinas)


The death of Antony... )

Hamlet...

Apr. 26th, 2011 11:00 pm
fajrdrako: ([History])




I saw Hamlet tonight with Beulah, a production by the new Ottawa Shakespeare Company in the newly-built second stage at Centrepointe.

Enjoyed it very much, even though at least one of the reviews I saw called it "Shakespeare for the Twilight crowd." Not really. No vampires.

I love Hamlet, both the play and the character. I love the cadence, the beautiful poetry. I love the banter and the second-guessing and the intrigue. I love the swordplay and the setting - a medieval castle - and most of all I love the melancholy Dane, who for my money is the perfect prototype of the Romantic Gothic hero.

I thought from the ads they would rewrite the story, but no, really, they didn't. The started with corpses on the stage and the dead Hamlet in Hortaio's arms, and Horatio about to tell us what happened. Then we get the play, cut a little, but more or less as Shakespeare wrote it. Starting at the climax, or the ending, or the middle, is fashionable these days: see Castle and Jane Eyre. My favourite bit: the famous Polonius speech to Laertes, "to thine own self be true", is delivered in the departure lounge of an airport. Ophelia is listening to music on her iPod.

My second favourite bit: Hamlet kisses Ophelia in the "get thee to a nunnery scene", and then later embraces and kisses Horatio in the scene where he's talking about how much he loves him. Oh, yeah, this is my kind of Shakespeare.

fajrdrako: ([Shakespeare])




Seems there's a new Ottawa Shakespeare Company, no apparent relation to the one Stewart Bain once set up, that did such a terrific Macbeth. I still have the T-shirt.

A new Shakespeare company, and they're doing one of my two faves, Hamlet. Woo-hoo! They said the video here was "in the style" of the show, and having seen it, I wonder what that means. Wildly rewritten? And what I really wonder is, how come Hamlet's in bed with Ophelia and still half-dressed? That really is a messed-up relationship...

fajrdrako: (Default)




Went to an amazing show tonight. Not theatre, not movie, but both: a broadcast performance of a live play at the National Theatre in London. The play in question being Frankenstein, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller. And there's a trick to the play. On alternating nights, they switch roles: Cumberbatch as the monster, then Miller as the monster. A few weeks ago, [livejournal.com profile] maaseru and Pim went to see the show (without even telling me about it, the fiends) with Cumberbatch as the monster. Tonight, I went with them and with Vicky and Marion to see it with Miller as he monster.



It's quite a show. )

I hope to see more of these filmed plays - the production quality is incredible. Of course, I'd also like to go to more actual National Theatre shows in London, but I hear the tickets are hard to get these days. This beside me being, as it were, a pauper.

fajrdrako: ([Shakespeare])




Sadly, the chance that I will get to see this play is at the low end of probability. But I love it that they're doing trailers for plays.

No spoilers here. (Heh.)



fajrdrako: ([Medieval])




    Since golden October declined into sombre November
    And the apples were gathered and stored, and the land
    became brown sharp points of death in a waste of water and mud,
    The New Year waits, breathes, waits, whispers in darkness.

I just got back from seeing Murder in the Cathedral performed by the Third Wall Theatre. The last thing I'd seen by them was a very bad production of Henry V; they redeemed themselves with this one, because I absolutely loved it. Riveting!

First credit does to T.S. Eliot, whose work I have loved forever. Though this isn't my favourite of his works, it has special meaning for me because it is about a key event in the 12th century, the murder of Thomas Becket by the knights of King Henry II on Christmas Day, 11070. This was the climax of a long and fascinating series of personal and political decisions by Henry and Becket; Eliot makes it a story of spiritual heroism. I adore his Becket, even though historically I think Henry was in the right, and I would support his secular nationalism rather than Becket's Rome-based faith. I wish a visionary poet like Eliot would take on Henry's point of view.

I love some of the images he also uses in Four Quartets, like the wheel that is both motionless and moving - and image I believe he got from Dante.

The play was performed as a read-through by some magnificent voices, the best being William Beddoe as Becket. The actors all dressed in black, but not period costume. Glebe-St. James United Church, which is one of the most beautiful churches in Ottawa, did a magnificent job of playing Canterbury Cathedral. In the introduction, the Minister of the church said she hoped more plays would be performed there, as she believes that theatre grew out of the Church1. "Doesn't this look like a Shakespearean stage?" she asked, waving towards all the carved dark wood and vaulting. Yup, works for me. Perform Shakespeare in my neighbourhood, oh yes, please.

1 Would Aeschylus agree?

fajrdrako: (Default)


I went tonight to see Eddie Izzard's current show at the National Arts Centre, Stripped: 2010 Canadian National Tour. Basically he tells the history of mankind in his own stream-of-consciousness style, with the running theme of the absurdity of religion. With segues into giraffe language and the moon landing. With certain recurring characters - the wifeless squirrel, the journalling squid, the jazz chicken, and Steve - the guy who invented hunting with weapons.

He said he was in girl-mode today, which meant tight jeans, lots of make-up, and very high heels.

I laughed a lot but I really lost control when he started talking about the Latin language. "Quod the fuck?" Here's an earlier version of the skit.

And though I can't remember exactly how it went, his ending was something like this: "The squid writes words of wisdom: think outside the box. The transvestite on stage tells you, the people of Ottawa, to think outside the box. When you're a transvestite on stage, you have to think outside the box."



fajrdrako: ([Shakespeare])


This evening I went to see The Pirates of Penzance, put on by the Ottawa School of Speech and Drama. I went because Lisa's older daughter Margot is in it, and it was a treat. The entire show was put on by thirteen teen-age girls and one boy, who played Frederic; and a woman at a piano. The staging and the direction were excellent; so was the imagination put into it. Margot played a pirate and a maiden and a policeman, and she got to sing my favourite song from Penzance: "A Policeman's Lot is Not a Happy One".

The best performance came from Nadine Rizk, who played the Pirate King. I adored her. She compared well with any professional I've seen in the role, besides being utterly cute. Naomi Peltz, who played Ruth, was also very good. Lisa said she had a scholarship to go to a drama school in New York, and no wonder. She played a 47-year-old in such a way that Lynne asked Lisa how old she actually was. Lisa said she was in grade eleven.

Sadly, the lone boy, who played Frederic, wasn't very impressive. So it goes.

fajrdrako: ([Shakespeare])


I just got home from seeing Shakespeare's A Comedy of Errors at the National Arts Centre. I'd had my doubts beforehand, partly because it isn't one of Shakespeare's more substantial plays, and partly because it was directed by Peter Hinton, who failed to impress me with his strangely pointless and random production of Taming of the Shrew at Stratford.

Well, it turned out to be fabulous. Not the best Shakespeare I've ever seen, but everything that it ought to be: funny and outrageous and predicable and quirky and imaginative.

The story, if you don't know it, is all about two sets of twins who are confused for each other. Separated when young, one grew up in Ephesus (with a servant, Dromio) and the other in Syracuse (with Dromio's twin brother, also called Dromio). Their father goes travelling to look for them and is about to be executed for being in Epheses without enough money. As it happens, every one turns up in Ephesus, and each Antipholus keeps being confused with the other one (and Dromio with Dromio) and it's all outrageously silly.

This production played up the old-fashioned silliness with broad humour and topical references - not in the dialogue, which was pure Shakespeare, but in the business and the props and the nuances. We have references to urban transit, the RCMP, gay marriage, Star Wars and its fandom, Star Trek, and tiger slippers. The various duels are fought with light sabres. Most times when the actors went on or off the stage, they used the hand sanitizers at the doorways.

And the set was gorgeous. Minimalist - I love minimalist sets. Metallic and reflective walls that occasionally showed windows or doors or an inset bed. Before the curtain - Figuratively speaking, as there was no curtain - the set was bare, with a small ship hanging in the middle near the floor. On one wall: a clock with no hands. On the other wall: a picture of the Queen. On both: the hand sanitizers.



Of the various actors, I thought the two women playing Dromio were the funniest, Danielle Desormeaux and Debra Kirshenbaum, both masters of physical comedy. I thought in passing that Clare Coulter, who played the Abbess, could easily take the role of Sybilla Crawford, Dowager Lady Culter - and that was before I saw her name.

My favourite character was the depressed but sexy old man, Antipholus of Ephesus, played by Andreas Apergas.

fajrdrako: (Default)


Another great show at the National Arts Centre tonight: A Vinyl Cafe Christmas with Stuart McLean. Stuart McLean has one of my favourite shows on CBC Radio, Vinyl Cafe.

He did four stories:
  • In which Dave, at a Christmas party, accidentally pours the alcohol into the kids' eggnog instead of the adults';

  • In which Dave is envious of his neighbour Ted's $12,000 bicycle;

  • Stuart McLeans' story of his first job as a journalist in a small town in Saskatchewan, where he had to spend Christmas working, and so couldn't go home for Christmas that year;

  • A story of how Dave's daughter Stephanie fell in love with books, when a copy of The Encyclopedia of Forgotten Places was sent to their home anonymously at Christmas.

Even better, there was great music from Jill Barber (whose CD Chances I own and love) and Matt Anderson, whose singing of Blue Christmas and O Holy Night was wonderful. The first song he sang was this one, So Gone Now. And Jill Barber sang her title song Chances, as well as doing a wonderful version of I'll Be Home for Christmas.

Before the show, [livejournal.com profile] maaseru and I went to Daly's (at the Westin) and had a lovely meal. One of those 'couldn't do it too often but it was worth every penny' meals. Mine was tomato-basil soup, braised duck with stir-fried veggies and noodles, and sortilège crème brulée. I didn't know what sortilège meant and had to ask the waitress. Maple brandy, she said. Well. Learn something every day. I had it with coffee. Delicious. It was nice too that, sitting by windows in Daly's, we had a gorgeous view of the National Arts Centre with its Christmas lights along the canal.

Here's an example of a Vinyl Cafe story.

fajrdrako: (Default)


I saw Dickens' A Christmas Carol at the National Arts Centre tonight - and a delightful show it was, too. Familiar though it is, they tried to make it different. Best things about the show: the performance of Stephen Ouimette as Scrooge, and the staging. Worst thing: the pacing. And I wasn't thrilled with the Victorian songs. But sometimes they emphasized a good line or passage from Dickens that isn't usually played up. And Ouimette had a wonderful spirit for it, especially at the end.

I got my replacement tickets with no trouble at all, not even a line-up at the Box Office. The opening curtain was delayed, delayed enough that the director, Peter Hinton, came on stage to apologize, saying they were delayed by a mishap backstage, and he promised the play would start in a couple of minutes. It was longer than that. We were all speculating as to what the mishap might have been. Even before that, before the curtain should have been, Peter Hinton was on stage trying to sell us the English Theatre Series now that the NAC has an English Theatre Company again after twenty-five years. And about time, too, I say.

My afternoon tea went well. I was still making sandwiches when Marion and Vicky arrived, but that was all right. And the meal itself was great. [livejournal.com profile] explodedteabag came after work, and a good time was had by all. Marion brought a wonderful dessert of fruit and custard sauce. Their Christmas presents to me were a set of two pieces of Egyptian papyrus art, and a 2010 Peter Wingfield calendar. I'm thrilled.

Afternoon tea is fun. I want to do it again.

fajrdrako: (Default)


I am sitting in the lobby of the Future Inn Cardiff Bay, online for the first time in days. And it has been an exciting and delightful week. I left Durham this morning by train; spent most of the day looking out of the window (mostly wondering what I was seeing, besides lovely countryside) and ended up in Cardiff, where I failed to meet up with the Torchwood fans I'd hope to meet this evening - bad timing, as I was later than anticipated - and so I took the chance to see The Sound of Music at the Millennium Centre.

Let me say it again, because I like the way it sounsds: I saw The Sound of Music at the Millennium Centre.

Woo.

This was my favourite movie when I was twelve, and has ever since had a place in my heart, but I've never seen it as a stage production. I of course wanted to see it with Connie Fischer, and that's a John Barrowman connection, since I watched How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?, the London version,, whereby she got the part. And she is delightful in the role.

But it gets better. I hadn't realized, when I bought my ticket - and yes, they were sold out, but as I came running in moments before the curtain went up, there was a returned ticket - I hadn't realized that Michael Praed was playing Captain Von Trapp. I've loved Praed since Robin of Sherwood, but he really won my heart in a performance of a Daphne du Maurier mystery I saw in London in the 1980s. He was stupendous.

Now, Christopher Plummer, who played Captain Von Trapp in the Julie Andrews movie, is one of my favourite actors and would be hard to beat. But Michael Praed was wonderful - absolutely wonderful. Next best thing.

And it was, of course, in the Millennium Centre, a beautiful theatre known to Torchwood fandom because it overlooks Raold Dahl Plass with the Torchwood Hub underneath, and the Torchwood fountain. Which is inexplicably covered in giant strawberries at the moment. I have a feeling Ianto would object. Nonetheless... The Millennium Centre, with its bilingual poetry on its front and its magnificent presence and its general hugeness. I was in a top balcony and it was high enough for my fear of heights to kick in, looking down at the stage. I didn't let that deter me. You know what it's like, to see those giant letters overlooking the Plass. It's even better to see them from the foyer, from the multiple levels of the theatre complex, windows spelling out their text backwards.

And the theatre programme (which cost me three pounds fifty) is totally bilingual in Welsh and English, making it a linguistic thrill. They didn't translate the song titles, for some reason.

There was an emergency during the first act - the first time in all my years of theatre-going I've experienced this. Someone a few yards to my left started screaming. They had to stop the show and turn on the lights. I didn't know what was going on till the intermission - it was a scary thing to happen. Turned out a woman choked on her chewing gum and was asphyxiating - needed immediate first aid. Luckily she got it from a nurse sitting nearby, and survived. Then the show went on, starting from the beginning of that scene - the confrontation between the Captain and Maria when he objects to he children wearing curtains and she quits.

There was an empty seat beside me, so I was able to move over so that the woman beside me could sit with her husband, who had a seat a few rows ahead. This was occasion for a little conversation, and they were utterly delightful. In fact, time after time on this trip, people have been amazingly nice to me. The English (and, it seems, the Welsh) are so very friendly, and kind to travelling strangers.

Bronte...

Aug. 9th, 2009 04:08 am
fajrdrako: ([Doctor Who] - Ten)


One of my favourite books is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Some of you will roll your eyes, some will say, "Oh, yes!" - it's one of those books - a tendentious classic to some, a heartstopping romance to others, a pile of sentimental guff to others.

I haven't read it in years, but I can still recite favourite passages. "Jane! Jane! You don't love me, then? It was only the position, the status of my wife that you desired?" (Yes, I know, hideously misquoted. I am shameless in my Rochester-love.)

Well, last night I saw a somewhat cut version of the Polly Teale play as put on by some Kenilworth student actors. Very interesting - I'd love to see a full production. It's about the whole Bronte family, but centered (like my interest) on Charlotte.

fajrdrako: ([John Barrowman])


After watching the fireworks from [livejournal.com profile] maaseru's balcony, we watched a CBC documentary about the Marias in How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?, the show we went to a taping of last year in Toronto - when I was still on crutches.

A lot of the documentary was about how hard it was on the girls in the TV show, but eventually we got to the parts that interested me more - the subsequent careers of the girls who didn't get the part, and the success of Elicia, the one who did. We also got a glimpse and a line from John Barrowman, and some interesting reactions from people like Andrew Lloyd Webber and David Mirvish.

Now I want to go and see The Sound of Music.

fajrdrako: (Default)


I'm still in Stratford.

Today we saw Macbeth with Colm Feore in the lead, Geraint Wynne Davies as Duncan, and Dion Johnstone (whom I now know to particularly look for) as a quite wonderful Macduff. I thought the staging was wonderful - great use of sound and light, and the witches' cauldron was magnificent. Also good use of video to give the effect of Macbeth in his fortress, using a sort of Big Brother surveillance on security cameras, yet giving the impression of himself as the prisoner of his own paranoia - claustrophobic, hypervigilent, desperate. I also loved Tom Rooney as the Porter.

The problem with dressing most of the cast in modern Canadian military uniforms is that it makes the characters harder than ever to tell apart.

I went for a couple of walks. Stratford is a lovely city to walk in. Didn't get to stroll along the Avon feeding the swans, as I'd half hoped, because of the rain. Maybe if I'm quick and early tomorrow morning, I'll still have a chance.

After the play today: more shopping, more books. I swear I will never overspend on books again. But oh so very worth it... after supper I was reading, not one of the books I got, but one [livejournal.com profile] maaseru got - How To Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster, which is a delightful read. I'm not sure he says anything I don't already know, and he says some things I think are not true (for instance, Vergil did not come 'immediately after' Homer - there was 800 years between them) - but his style is loads of fun to read. I keep reading choice passages aloud to [livejournal.com profile] maaseru, sometimes because they're amusing, sometimes because I'm appalled. (This man likes Faulkner, for example. Yerch.)

Late evening, we went back to Foster's Inn on Downie Street for dessert, and I had their delightful Vanilla Bean Crème Brulée, which was as good as I could possibly have hoped.

It rained today, but that relieved the heat, and it was a beautiful evening. The rain gave [livejournal.com profile] maaseru the excuse to buy a wonderful big umbrella with pictures of Shakespeare on it.

fajrdrako: ([Shakespeare])


Wonderful day, though I'm really tired now.

Morning: wandered the Farmer's Market at St. Jacob. Got a sunburn. Had a lovely time.

Afternoon: Saw Julius Caesar. Loved the staging. It was probably the most interesting and dramatic production of that play I've seen, though there ought to be a law: no use of dry ice for battle scenes ever again.

Late afternoon: Bookstores and gift shops, and dinner at Foster's Inn. Roast duck.

Evening: The Importance of Being Earnest with Brian Bedford as Lady Bracknell. Amazing sets: stylish, interesting use of dimensions and shapes.

I'll no doubt have more to say about all of this, but first... sleep.

Henry V

May. 12th, 2009 10:53 pm
fajrdrako: (Default)


Went to see Henry V this evening at the Irving Greenberg Theatre, put on by the Third Wall Company. I've wanted to see something by them ever since they did Murder in the Cathedral a few years ago, and I missed it.

I was reassured tonight: maybe I was better off missing it.

It was a motion-filled production of Henry V. Lots of climbing on the scaffolding. Everyone enunciated clearly and shouted most of the time. Shouted so much that no one was left with any personality but Henry. The French princess was totally charmless; Henry would have been better off with her rather stolid, plump lady in waiting. Falstaff was omitted. The costumes (drab khaki uniforms, mostly) didn't fit. I rather liked the staging (with red scaffolding) but they kept trying to differentiate the French from the English with large flags - the cross of St. George on one, the fleurs-de-lys on the other - and the flags kept falling down as soon as they went up.

At one point [livejournal.com profile] maaseru whispered to me, "When directors don't know what to do, they move the furniture."

Oh for a muse of fire...

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