Category Archives: theatre

Mary Stuart a must see at Stratford.

I had my annual girl’s day-trip to Stratford yesterday. The three of us all sing in the same choir, and this is the third or fourth year that we’ve done this trip to see a matinée at North America’s pre-eminent Shakespearean festival theatre, just over an hour from Toronto.

We decided to see Mary Stuart, the first non-Shakespeare play we’ve seen together. Written by Friedrich Schiller at the end of the 18th century, it examines the politics and pathos surrounding Mary, Queen of Scots and Elizabeth, Queen of England, and imagines a meeting between the two women during Mary’s last days.

The play was translated/adapted by Peter Oswald and is very pleasing. The modern text has moments of humour as well as sadness and terror. The cast is superb, led by Seana McKenna as Elizabeth and Lucy Peacock as Mary. This video is a clip of Peacock from the first scene.

And here’s McKenna as Elizabeth:

The supporting cast was also superb and included Brian Dennehy as the aging Earl of Shrewsbury and Geraint Wyn Davies as the Earl of Leicester.

Mary Stuart | On the Stage
Brian Dennehy
Mary Stuart | On the Stage
Geraint Wyn Davies

On the more personal side, we once again took a picnic lunch and sat at a table on the banks of the Avon River. While there were lots of ducks, we only saw one of the famous swans.

Courtesy http://www.StratfordCanada.ca

The rain pretty much held off until we headed back to stash our lunch stuff. We ended up hanging out in the car, eating cookies and chatting for a few minutes until the rain lightened up enough for us to make a dash for the Tom Patterson theatre.

After the play, with the rain stopped and humidity under control, we headed to Down the Street, our usual post-theatre resto for a drink and a burger. We were back in Toronto by 8:30, another great outing. Thanks to Mary for driving and Kathleen for the beverages and for booking the tickets.

It’s Monday…what am I reading?

it's monday

It’s been a slow reading week. I was set back by losing my Kobo for a few days. (I found it stuck between my quilt and the footboard of my bed….serves me right for, ahem, not making my bed very vigorously.) The heat made me sleepy and I kept drifting off while reading. But we’re back to normal summer temps and the words are flying by.

In paper:
I read the most wonderful graphic novel, Habibi, by Craig Thompson, author of Blankets. It’s been on my shelf for months, but I just got to it this week. There is a website for the book where you can see images and explore his process of drawing. Here’s my review from Goodreads:

A masterful work of art and storytelling, it is ultimately about the power of love to overcome hardship. I will not soon forget Zam and Dodola. It is as if I have been privy to the secrets of their lives in a fictional area of Mesopotamia. Thompson mixes the ancient world with the present day, stories from the Quran and the Bible, and the earthiness and sensuality of the lives he depicts. His arabic calligraphy is beautiful, and I regret that I didn’t realise there were notes to some of the pages with translation and source information at the end of the book, until I was about halfway through.

I was sad as I reached the end. I wanted to know more about their lives after the last page.

Highly recommended. 5 out of 5 stars

I’m starting Alif the Unseen next, another fantasy set in a mythical Arabian nation. I picked it up at the Random House Warehouse Sale in the spring.

On my eReader:

Now that I’ve recovered my Kobo, I’ll be continuing with Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Next up will be The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. It’s a fantasy set in Alaska in the 1920s, where childless homesteaders build a child out of snow.

In audio:

I’ve just about finished Haruki Murakami’s short story collection The Elephant Vanishes. It’s a wonderful set of stories, some more fantastical than others. For a complete change of pace, I’ll be listening to Fay Weldon’s Habits Of The House next.

I’m off to Stratford tomorrow with some friends to see Mary Stuart. I”m in charge of the picnic lunch so I’m off to prep before bed tonight. Back on Wednesday!

Mary Stuart | On the Stage
Seana McKenna (centre) as Elizabeth surrounded by, from left: Peter Hutt as Aubespine, Dylan Trowbridge as William Davison, Brian Dennehy as the Earl of Shrewsbury and Geraint Wyn Davies as the Earl of Leicester in Mary Stuart. Photo by David Hou.

Musings on Stratford

Swans, Ducks and Geese along the Avon River (S...
Swans, Ducks and Geese along the Avon River (Stratford, Ontario, Canada) (Photo credit: cseeman)

I am looking forward to my (now becoming annual) girls day-trip to Stratford in a couple of weeks. Three of us drive down in the morning, bring a picnic lunch to eat by the Avon River, see a play, dine in a restaurant, and then return to Toronto.

This year we’re going off-book and seeing a non-Shakespearean play: Mary Stuart by Friedrich Schiller. Starring Seana McKenna (Elizabeth) and Lucy Peacock (Mary), it promises to be wonderful. McKenna fulfilled a lifelong dream last year, playing Richard III, and she was a marvel. Peacock recently made waves at UNC playing Queen MacBeth in a “gender-bending adaptation” of the Scottish play.

Spadework
Spadework (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday, I started reading Timothy Findley‘s 2001 novel Spadework. I recently picked it up at Value Village and don’t even remember hearing about it before. As it turns out, it is set in Stratford, and begins with a married couple of “theatre people”, a 30-year-old actor and his 35-year-old, independently wealthy comfortable, set-maker wife. I’m 150 pages in and it’s something of a page-turner. One of the memorable scenes takes place at Down the Street, the restaurant that we’ve enjoyed the last couple of times we’ve been in Stratford, and apparently a theatre-people hangout. So I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled this time, although we’re usually there far too early to star-gaze. As for lunch, Jane, the set-maker, likes to drink wine in a paper cup down by the river when she takes a break from work, so I’m pretty sure a couple of G&Ts at lunch, similarly disguised, are worth the risk.

First foray to Stratford this season.

Last Thursday, I headed to the Stratford Shakespeare Festival with a couple of friends to see Richard III.  I had heard some months ago that Seana McKenna had asked to play Richard, that he was a character that she had wanted to inhabit for a long time.  So it was with great anticipation that we purchased tickets.  In the intervening weeks, some failry negative reviews came out in the press that had me second guessing myself.

Well, the play completely blew me out of the water.  It was in the Tom Patterson Theatre that has a long thrust stage.  It’s a smallish space with no poor seats.  McKenna was brilliant.  Garbed all in black, sporting a hump and wig with long stringy hair over a bald spot, she limped on stage, seething with hatred and mockery of her rivals. It only took a few phrases to dismiss the slight incongruity of her voice which did not sound as if she was lowering it. The play is noteworthy in that Richard shares a lot of commentary with the audience in asides, often adding to, or completely contradicting, information he gives to his court.

A little excerpt:

It was lovely, if overcast, day.  We left Toronto around 10 am, had a picnic lunch beside the Avon River before the play at 2:00.  Afterwards, we visited the theatre shop and then enjoyed an excellent dinner at Down the Street before heading home.

I’m looking forward to returning to Stratford later this summer to see a few more productions including Jesus Christ Superstar and The Grapes of Wrath.  McKenna is also doing a one-woman play called Shakespeare’s Will which I hope to catch.

Seven Quick Takes Friday

7_quick_takes

  1. The boys are both away from home this week and it’s been nice, in a wierd kind of way. Alex is up at the cottage witih his girlfriend and they’re due back sometime today. Michael is working at the Toronto District School Board’s Music by the Lake camp for elementary school students. He’s a junior staff assistant, asked to work sort of last-minute-ish as they needed a trombone player. From the few texts we’ve received, it sounds like he’s having a good time. We’ll pick him up tomorrow around noon and then he needs to study for his exams next week.
  2. Saw the absolutely thrilling production of Alice in Wonderland last night at the National Ballet of Canada. I’m not a big ballet afficianado…I’ve only ever been to The Nutcracker (multiple times, from childhood) but this got such raves that I thought it was worth checking out.  I’m a convert! Originally a production of the Royal Ballet, it’s full of surprises with stunning sets, props, and effects, and the score by Joby Talbot is terrific.
    Red_queen

  3. Saw an old friend from high school on Wednesday evening. It’s been years, yet we fell into conversation as if it had been a few days. Isn’t it wonderful how that happens?  I’ll see her again tonight as we’re both attending Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera, courtesy of Opera By Request, in which a mutual friend (also from high school) is singing.
  4. The annual Luminato Festival starts this weekend and we’ve actually lined up tickets to some events this year! On our calendar:
    – One Thousand and One Nights, a new theatrical production of these Arabic folktales. It’s actually being staged in two three-hour segments, but we’ll see one of them.
    – We tried to get tickets to hear Lebanese author and creator of the script for 1001 Nights Hanan al-Shayk, but they were sold out. I’m hoping maybe they’ll repeat the event. 
    – Next weekend, we’ll see “a raw and shocking re-imagination of Racine’s classic play [Andromache] from provocative Scottish director Graham McLaren.” Z studied the play in school, but I am completely ignorant, so I should probably do a little reading about it … 
    – I’m keen to take in the free installation by architect Philip Beesley called Sargasso. It was at the Vienna Biennale. There’s a little promo video about it at the link that’s well worth a watch.
    – Next Friday is a free outdoor concert in David Pecaut square featuring kd lang. Yay! 
    Can you see why I love Toronto?! 
  5. Next Thursday, I’m heading to Stratford with two gal pals to see Seana McKenna in Richard III. As Richard III. The play did NOT get great reviews, but I’m looking forward to it nonetheless.
    Mckenna

  6.  Our garden is actually looking somewhat acceptable this summer. There is still a whole section to tidy up, but I’ve started putting mulch down after I pull weeds, and the grass seed I picked up at Costco on the spur of the moment is doing really well in filling in some of the patchiness of the lawn. Being on a corner lot, everuthing is basically exposed, so it’s been kind of embarrassing to have this wild and wooly thing happening on our property.  
  7. Just finished a terrific book, Brooklyn, by Colm Toibin. It’s the story of a young Irish woman in the 50s who emigrates to Brooklyn and finds herself stuck between her old and new lives.  It’s a compelling portrait of that time, relations between Irish, Italians, Jews, and African-Americans in this bustling city of immigrants. As a genealogist, it gave me some insight into what it must have been like for single women to come to the “new world” for a better life, without family, having to make new friends and find their way on their own (or, as in this case, with help from her parish priest.)  I highly recommend this quick read.
  8. Bonus: I am desperately trying to break my habit of putting two spaces after a period. There has been so much mockery of old-school people like me who were taught that in the last century, and it’s terribly ingrained. But I’m trying.

Visit Jennifer over at Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes!