Of the 4 theatres at Stratford, the smallest is the intimate Studio space. Only two production were being featured there in August – but both are absolutely brilliant.
Both are new productions, but expertly produced, directed, acted, and told. I highly recommend seeing them both – but for far different reasons. “Thrill” is a tour de force for Lucy Peacock – one of Stratford finest. Her performance of a wheel-chair bound crip is so believable – that I was shocked – absolutely shocked – when she walked out to receive her well-earned standing ovation. She spends the entire play – and she is in almost every single scene, bent and contorted in one of those motorized wheel chairs – which she drives around the stage like a 6-year-old drives a Matchbook Car – in circles, spirals, with startling stops and starts. Amazing.
The story is both heartfelt, heart warming, and devastating. Despite the heroine’s severe handicaps – there’s no issue with her mental acuity – and she wins you to her side through wit and creative story telling. You are cheering madly for her at the end, regardless of the blinders you might have been wearing when you entered the Theatre.
“Taking Shakespeare” is a horse of another color completely. The hero this time is a rag-tag 24 year-old student is not living up to ‘expectations’. He is sent for private Shakespeare lessons with an aging female professor – and the chosen play is Othello. This is particularly appropriate because Othello is actually playing at the Avon – another theatre in the Stratford world. So one can easily apply the lessons the hero is learning to the play itself!
The ending, while not entirely unpredictable, is a story of growing up – at any age. I loved it, my husband loved it, our friends loved it, and by all accounts the audience loved it too. So go – if you can get tickets.
If you can’t – not to worry – I’m sure a production of this play will soon be done near your hometown.