Archives for July 2018

The Jessies 2018: three companies take most of the hardware

Pippa Mackie and Peter Anderson perform a death scene in Titus Bouffonius.

Pippa Mackie and Peter Anderson got good and grotesque in Rumble Theatre’s Titus Bouffonius, which was one of the big winners at the 2018 Jessies.

At the 2018 Jessie Richardson Awards, which took place in the Bard on the Beach mainstage tent for the first time this year, the juries heavily favoured three companies: Rumble, the Arts Club, and Green Thumb.

There are three main categories at the Jessie Awards: small theatre, large theatre, and theatre for young audiences.

In the small-theatre stream, Rumble’s production of The Society for the Destitute Presents Titus Bouffonius nabbed six prizes, including outstanding production.

Other laurels that went to Titus Bouffonius include those for performance by an ensemble (Sarah Afful, Peter Anderson, Craig Erickson, Pippa Mackie, and Naomi Wright), lighting design (Sophie Tang), set design (Drew Facey), costume design (Drew Facey), and direction (Stephen Drover).

Accepting the ensemble prize, Craig Erickson and Pippa Mackie assumed the grotesque bouffon characters they inhabited in Titus Bouffonius—and delivered the most enthusiastically received thank-yous of the night, including Mackie’s “We’d like to thank all of the people who walked out when I pulled out a bloody tampon.” [Read more…]

Lysistrata: still funny after thousands of years

Two characters wear Barbara Clayden's improvised hats in Lysistrata at Bard on the Beach.

Mophead meets baghead by starlight. (Photo of Quelemia Sparrow and Luisa Jojic by Tim Matheson)

Let’s all just agree to see everything that Lois Anderson directs from now on, okay? Two years ago, her reinvention of Pericles for Bard on the Beach was a revelation. And this year she has brought us a Lysistrata that’s so fresh I feel younger after seeing it.

Lysistrata isn’t Shakespeare; it was written by Aristophanes in 411 B.C, and two thousand and twenty-nine years later, it’s still hilarious.

In the story, the Greek city states are engaged in an endless series of wars, so an Athenian named Lysistrata convinces all of the women of Greece to go on a sex strike until the men stop fighting.

Anderson and playwright Jennifer Wise have added a framing device in which an all-female company is performing Hamlet at Bard on the Beach. But when the acting company hears that Vanier Park is about to be turned into a shipping terminal, they decide to stage Lysistrata instead. “Why do a play about a man incapable of action?” they ask, when they could be doing a play about kick-ass women. [Read more…]

Timon of Athens gives you too much time to look at the shoes

Playing Timon of Athens, Colleen Wheeler rages against duplicity.

Colleen Wheeler goes full throttle as Timon of Athens, but director Meg Roe’s take undercuts her efforts. (Photo by Tim Matheson)

As a script, Timon of Athens has problems. Director Meg Roe’s production for Bard on the Beach doesn’t help it out.

There are good reasons why Timon doesn’t enjoy a lot of productions. The play, which Shakespeare probably co-wrote with Thomas Middleton, features a wealthy Athenian who showers his friends with more gifts—jewels and horses—than he can afford. When Timon inevitably goes bankrupt, those supposed friends turn their backs on him. The script is repetitive and obvious: it’s clear from the get-go that Timon is a spendthrift and he’ll pay for it. And Timon gains virtually no insight—he plummets directly from naiveté to embittered rage—so there’s little sense of thematic accumulation or satisfaction.

Still, Timon of Athens can be moving—as it was in director James Fagan Tait’s production for Bard in 2007. In Timon’s worldview, material support is the currency of intimacy. In an early party scene, Timon says to his guests: “Why, I have often wished myself poorer that I might come nearer to you. We are born to do benefits. And what better or properer can we call our own than the riches of our friends?” The guy is fucked up. He mistakes money for love. If a production allows us to see this vulnerability, the play’s heart opens and it becomes an affecting tragedy.

Under Meg Roe’s direction, that doesn’t happen. [Read more…]