What should I see at Bard this summer?

Jennifer Lines, Bard on the Beach, The Tempest, Vancouver theatre

Jennifer Lines plays Ariel as a slave who loves her master in The Tempest

At this time of year, the question I get asked most often is “What should I see at Bard on the Beach?”

My top pick for 2014 is The Tempest. Director Meg Roe’s production is excellent: clear (easy to follow even for Shakespearean newbies), sensual (beautiful music, lavish costumes), and moving. The acting is terrific. Allan Morgan (Prospero) and Jennifer Lines (Ariel) are seasoned performers at the top of their game. Emerging talents Lili Beaudoin (Miranda) and Daniel Doheny (Ferdinand) will open your heart, as the young lovers. And, playing drunken ladies of the court (drunken sailors in the original)  Naomi Wright and Luisa Jojic will make you split a stitch.

Anita Rochon’s take on the seldom-produced Cymbeline is also excellent. The forceful simplicity that Rachel Cairns achieves as Imogen, the main character, is deeply impressive. And the bold choices that Anton Lipovetsky makes in a number of roles (including Imogen’s husband Posthumus and her antagonist, Cloten) are dazzling. Rochon’s decision to lean into the play’s delight in narrative invention pays off big time.

I also very much enjoyed parts of Dean Paul Gibson’s return to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He leans too heavily on the shtick in my view: not all of the story lines support that kind of comedy. When it’s appropriate, though, as in the mechanicals’ scenes, it is frickin’ hilarious. Scott Bellis makes a side-splitting Bottom, and Kyle Rideout a magnificently punky Puck.

The one show that didn’t tickle my fancy is playwright Bill Cain’s Equivocation. In the play, he shows us Shakespeare—whom he calls Shagspeare, for no apparent reason—trying to negotiate a political commission from James I without getting his head cut off. I think the play’s naive , but lots of people think it’s smart. It’s not at the top of my list but, again, Lipovetsky is great as King James. Bob Frazer finds all the feeling that’s to be had in Shagspeare.

The Tempest and Cymbeline: highly recommended. Dream: terrific elements. Equivocation: some admirable performances in a less than wonderful play.

About Colin Thomas

Colin Thomas is a Vancouver-based editor, an award-winning playwright, and an established theatre critic. Colin helps writers unlock the full potential of their novels, short stories, screenplays, and children's books.

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