This is part of an ongoing series of regional Shakespeare coverage. It’s Tori here with the latest in Shakespeare news from Toronto.
July was chalk full of incredible theatre from the Toronto Fringe Festival to various other outdoor productions.
The Fringe Festival featured a number of interesting adaptation and Shakespeare related productions. While I wasn’t able to see all of the Shakespeare shows the few I did were impressive!
Shakespeare Bash’d’s The Comedy of Errors was an incredible farewell to the Fringe and featured an all-star cast of Bash’d veterans at their best. The staging was incredible, especially Kelly Penner and Tim Welham’s use of a moveable door that allowed them the ability to play both twins simultaneously. With this production Bash’d proved how much you can do with the bare minimum of props and scenery. Check out my earlier review of the production for a more in-depth review and keep an eye and ear out for details about their upcoming 2016-2017 season.
New York based The Shylock Project’s Orson Welles/ Shylock was a strange but compelling examination of Orson Welles’s fascination with and attempts to play Shakespeare’s Shylock throughout his life. Part radio play, part documentary, this play featured three male and one female actors who alternated playing Welles and those he came into contact with throughout his life. Most of the dialogue came directly from interviews, reviews, and writings from Welles himself and in doing so were able to create a compelling and engaging story of his life with Shylock at the centre. Though the concept had the potential to be confusing the four actors did a great job in embodying Welles and the people he encountered throughout his life with very few props and minimal costume changes. The use of a shadow theatre and strewn script pages across the stage were also a creative and effective way to show the inner workings of Welles’s mind and a visual representation of his thwarted attempts to play Shylock.
Weird: The Witches of Macbeth was not only a mesmerising aerial show it was also an interesting take on the three prophesying witches in Shakespeare’s most supernatural play. While the play was about witches and aerial arts, the concept and the three actors were able to both humanize and ground the witches. It was an incredible show to watch.
Romeo and Juliet Chainsaw Massacre was one of the Best of Fringe winners this year and there is no question as to why. Adding a ‘chainsaw wielding maniac’ to Shakespeare’s most famous love story made this production campy and hilarious in all the right ways! The cast was amazing, the gore and costuming hit just the right note of accuracy and farce. I was also impressed with the way the chainsaw and killer were incorporated into the plot of Romeo and Juliet without ever overshadowing the major elements of the original play. I don’t know how a chainsaw can be both over-the-top and subtle at the same time but the cast and crew of Romeo and Juliet Chainsaw Massacre were able to achieve it!
Shakey-Shake and Friends Twelfth Night…A Puppet Epic was a perfect adaptation and introduction to Shakespeare’s works. While following closely the original story line of Twelfth Night Shakey-Shake and Friends were able to teach kids about bullying and being kind to one another. The play was fun for both kids and adults alike and it is no wonder that they won Patron’s Pick this year!
I also had the opportunity to see Driftwood Theatre Group’s 80s BDSM inspired adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew a few weeks ago. The Taming of the Shew is one of my favourite of Shakespeare’s comedies along with Midsummer Night’s Dream because of the interesting ways Shakespeare plays with comedic conventions, expectations and the interesting ways he plays with issues of consent in both plays. Driftwood’s adaptation was spot on and timely considering the increasing discussions surrounding consent that have been in the media recently and the recent publication of Jillian Keenan’s Sex With Shakespeare where she interprets Shrew in a similar way. The entire ensemble was fantastic and was impressed with the ways the cast shared roles and moved between them effortlessly. The music was also a great edition to the production and helped ground the play in the time period. I also appreciated and was impressed with the way this production unapologetically discussed and alluded to aspects of kink so openly by staging the play outside in a public park. If you are able to catch up with the Bard Bus Tour I’d highly recommend seeing this production!
All in all was a great month for Shakespeare productions in Toronto and August looks to be equally full of great productions so go out and see some Shakespeare!