Last but not least – there’s the Tom Patterson Theatre. I describe it as awkward because the theatre is in a curling rink – long and thin, with rows of seats extending all the way from the narrow front of the stage to the far back. It’s a huge space – and the actors are challenged to be heard and to be seen when their backs are to at least 1/2 the audience at all times. By definition the staging is minimalist – but this is Stratford – minimalist doesn’t mean boring or empty.
At the Tom Patterson, lighting takes on a leading role. In the case of Mary Stuart – the only play we saw there this year – lighting produces the mazes that the players walk to show their captivity, their helplessness, their forced upon them artificial lives. Lighting makes the play.
And when the theatre suddenly went dark because of a Stratford wide power failure – the audience and the actors were stunned. The actors quite literally froze in their paces – I’m guessing hoping that the computer controlled lights would remember where they had been moments earlier. No such luck. The lights had to grind thru their positions, and the play had to start over several pages back. Kinda neat – as an audience you rarely see how professionals can with such apparent ease virtually repeat every movement again and again.
For those wondering about the play – the story tells of an imaginary meeting between Queen Elizabeth and her rival for the throne of England, Mary Stuart. But the meeting, despite being the ‘heart’ of the play – is fore-shadowed by the preamble to the meeting – the posturing by both Mary and Elizabeth, the fawning of their staff, the desperate need to be right, to be loved, to be respected. It does make for powerful drama.
I’d give this play/production a medium recommend. Not as much fun as Fiddler, not as uncomfortable for the audience as The Merchant of Venice, not as noisy as Tommy, not as fun as Blythe Spirit and not as dramatic a tour de force as Thrill, but still worth the money.
Posted in √√√, Entertainment, Ontario, Places I've been, Stratford, Theatre Reivews
- Tagged Ontario, Review, Shakespeare Festival, Stratford, theater, Theatre, Tom Patterson
9 Plays in 5 days – really? Am I nuts? I guess the answer must be the obvious yes – but somehow it didn’t seem nuts to plan one trip to Stratford – and while there see as many plays as I possibly could.
And probably it’s only at Stratford, the repertory theatre par excellence of Canada, that one can squeeze in that many plays without worrying about conflicts and travel times. All the 4 venues are within easy walking distance of each other, and all performances start at 2:00 or 8:00. Since much of the staff performs in multiple plays – they need time to get to the next gig – just like the audience does.
I’m not going to review all 9 plays in one super blog – My plan is to break up the plays by Theatre – starting with the Grande Dame – The Festival Stage. It’s huge, it’s famous, the acoustic are awesome, the staging reliably stunning, and of course the acting is superb. So picking winners is a bit like choosing between grand-kids. You kinda love them all! But that said – here goes nothing.
My favorites of the 3 we saw on the main ‘Festival’ stage was a toss-up between the absolutely brilliant Fiddler on the Roof – excellent in its ability to convey the conflicts, the joys, the troubles of the fiddler in top-notch fashion. Great singers, solid convincing acting, a lovely set that was inspired by the art of Marc Chagall combine to get and keep the audience enthralled. No wonder good seats are hard to get. This is a production worth seeing.
My second favorite – and it was a close call thing – was the outstanding production of the Merchant of Venice. The actor playing Shylock also plays Tevye – which quickly tells you a lot about his range and capabilities. He was quite literally mind-blowing in both roles, in such hugely different ways. For those who don’t know – and apparently some of these people were in the audience – the Merchant is one of Shakespeare’s toughest plays. Today no one likes to watch people callously making fun and then physically and verbally degrading another person – regardless of why that person is ‘different’. And at the end of the highly dramatic and very emotional court scene – Shylock lies degraded and abused on the very front of the stage. It is a highly charged moment – made more so by an audience member who choose that point to stand up – throw his program to the ground and state clearly enough so everyone could hear – “This is the most antisemitic thing I’ve ever seen”.
True – and my husband argued afterwards that the director had perhaps taken the text a bit too far by placing the play in Fascist Italy just before World War II. The presence on stage of ‘brown shirts’ did little to make the audience feel better about the behavior of the main characters, and even the color-blind casting doesn’t quite make us forget that in the Merchant – what is objectionable behavior today was very acceptable when the play was written. But topic aside – the production is outstanding. Just go prepared.
Posted in √√√√, Entertainment, Ontario, Stratford, Theatre Reivews, Travel
- Tagged Live Theatre, Ontario, Repertory Theatre, Shakespeare Festival, Stratford, theater, Theatre
Not quite on the main drag, the Raja has survived its location because of its quality. And despite the years, it continues to impress.
Stuck with having to eat between Matinees and Evening Performances – ie: 5:00 to 7:30 – and not wanting ‘fast food’, the Raja has always been one of our go to options. The room is lovely. Dark wood, quiet carpeting, table cloths, proper napkins, and attentive waiters win me over every time. The food is good as well.
We were 3 – so we opted for a combo dinner for 2 which included an appetizer sampler, butter chicken, rice, and several other traditional Indian dishes. I opted for the tandoori Chicken, served sizzling on a platter of onions. The butter chicken was delicious, the tandoori Chicken properly cooked and appropriately juicy, and my sisters Chai tea was excellent.
Just a bit more on the Chai Tea. We were warned when we ordered it that it would take about 5 minutes to prepare because it is done to order. And they delivered a tea with the milk and tea leaves properly steamed and combined by hand into a lovely bouquet of delicious smell and taste.
Bottom line – Great look, ok Indian Food – and fast. So perfect for a quick and relatively inexpensive but nice dinner pre-theatre.
Posted in $$ ($15-$50), √√√, Dining, Ontario, Stratford, Travel
- Tagged food, Foodio54, gastronomy, Indian Food, Ontario, Raja, restaurant, Review, Shakespeare Festival, Stratford, Urbanspoon