The thing Bard does that bugs me

The Comedy of Errors, Bard on the Beach

A squid makes an unscripted, unwelcome, and witless appearance in The Comedy of Errors

I am a big, big fan of Bard on the Beach. Every year, I look forward to Bard’s season and I’m very picky about who I take to those shows: the tickets are like gold as far as I’m concerned.

Artistic director Christopher Gaze and the rest of the company have built a strong and important institution. Gaze provides lots of opportunities for young artists—especially actors and directors—to advance their skills. And Bard has brought me some of the most transcendent theatrical experiences of my life. I’m thinking about Dean Paul Gibson’s first mounting of A Midsummer Night’s Dream a few years ago, for instance.

But there’s something that Bard does that really bugs me: too often, the company dumbs down Shakespeare’s comedies. 

That’s happening right now in director Scott Bellis’s A Comedy of Errors.

Two scenes stand out as particularly egregious examples. In one, a Venus-flytrap puppet munches on fingers and generally requires attention. In another, a puppet squid bangs around in a cooking pot before bursting forth and causing mayhem.

Shakespeare didn’t write either of these puppets into the play, of course. And, in both cases, the puppets upstage the actors, and—crucially—obscure the meaning of the scenes.

Some audience members love this kind of nonsense. They’re convinced they’re enjoying Shakespeare. But they’re not: they’re enjoying a gag that’s distracting them from Shakespeare.

Bellis isn’t the only offender on this front. It’s a fairly common approach at Bard. And I really wish they’d stop it.

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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