At the Court House Theatre, Shaw Festival, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.

Written by Athol Fugard
Directed by Philip Akin
Set and costumes by Peter Hartwell
Lighting by Kevin Lamotte
Dance sequences by Valerie Moore
Cast: James Daly
Allan Louis
André Sills

An exquisitely directed and acted production of Athol Fugard’s searing play about life in Apartheid South Africa as seen through the eyes of three men.

The Story. The play is set in the St. Georges Park Tea Room in Port Elizabeth, South Africa in 1950. Willie and Sam are two adult employees who take care of the room, serving, washing, doing cash etc. They are black. Hally (Harold is the actual name) is the privileged teenaged son of the white couple who own the tea room and have employed Willie and Sam for years.

Willie is fretting about a ballroom dance competition he wants to win but is saddled with a partner who doesn’t know the steps. He beats her up in frustration. She balks at this bad treatment and threatens to quit. Sam tells him to treat his partner better and he won’t lose her. He’s lost several to his bad behaviour.

Hally arrives to do his homework. Both Willie and Sam have known Hally since he was a young boy. Willie and Sam treat Hally in their own way. Willie is very deferential, even obsequious. He has always called him Master Harold. Sam has always treated the boy with respect and affection but not in a bowing, scraping way. Sam has helped Hally with his school work in his own way; challenging the boy to think about questions of his homework; fielded questions about the readings and about life. Sam made a kite for Hally when he was a boy and taught him how to fly it.

In a way Sam is a surrogate father to Hally. Hally’s own father is an angry, belligerent drunk who is disabled. At present he’s in the hospital but is coming home soon as Hally learns in a phone call with his mother. This throws Hally in a tizzy. He is not looking forward to it. He takes his anger out on Sam. Terrible words are spoken by Hally. Sam, always wise and thoughtful keeps his decorum as best he can. The rift looks almost impossible to fix, try as Sam does to help Hally see the error of his ways. But this is Apartheid South Africa and Hally has a lot to learn. Will it happen in the play or is the hope in Willie and Sam?

The Production. Peter Hartwell has designed a very small tea room of a few tables. A juke box is stage left of a curbed counter. Stage right at the back is the place where the food is prepared and then put on a shelf to be served to the customers. The floor is a black and white checkerboard design.

In preparation for the next day, the tables will be properly set with white table clothes. Every effort is made to make this place seem a place of some class. In reality it’s not. Business is slow. Sam reads a magazine and Willie practices his dance steps.

The energy level rises when Hally (James Daly) breezes in, confident, easy, irreverent and familiar with Sam and Willie. The loose-limbed body language of James Daly as Hally illuminates a young man, a teen who is pampered. While we see a petulant young man in this performance, we also see the sense of entitlement. Daly’s performance never turns us off. We are as disappointed in him as Sam is.

Willie (Allan Louis) tries to be as helpful as possible, jumping right in, almost trying too hard. Willie is a man who almost bows when Hally enters. Allan Louis’s playing of Willie is without guile, sweet, almost sad in his efforts to please. The result is a terrific performance

Sam is also energized when Hally arrives. Sam is confident enough in their relationship that he teases this young man. He challenges him on his homework. We sense that this is their routine. This is how Sam makes Hally take initiative and work. Sam encourages, supports, teases and compliments Hally when he needs it. He understands the challenges of this young man; his unhappy family-life; how he is afraid of his father. How he, Sam, is the father Hally deserves but doesn’t have. As Sam, Andre Sills gives a towering, subtle, nuanced performance. He throws out an idea to Hally and gives a sly look, waiting for the young man to catch the idea and run with it. Andre Sills makes the audience watch him look for a sign from Hally as well. This is a performance of dignity, decency and tremendous generosity.

Hally does something despicable to Sam and Sam reacts accordingly but still with a hurt compassion. He waits, as do we, for Hally to do the right thing. Young as he is Hally represents entitled white South Africa. Doing the right thing for them is years away. Rising above it and doing the right thing for Sam and Willie and for the people they represent is where the hope is in the play.

Philip Akin has realized the ache and hope in the play with his exquisite direction. Each revelation, tease and good-natured joshing unfolds with careful delicacy. There are moments of gut-twisting regret and heart-squeezing compassion thanks to this wonderful collaboration between gifted director and cast.

Comment. The title “Master Harold”…and the Boys” is terrifically ironic and slyly offensive. It harkens back to the idea of white supremacy in black South Africa. Even the white boss’s son is called “Master.” And of course that two adult men, who are black, are called ‘boys’ makes one suck air. Playwright Athol Fugard sets up the trick in that title because the play goes so much further than those stereotypical notions.

With just these three characters, writer Athol Fugard has illuminated the various aspects of Apartheid South Africa in 1950. Hally is the entitled, arrogant white master. Willie is the obsequious black man trying to curry favour of anyone he thinks is superior to him and not offend him. Sam is a man who is confident in himself. He is courtly; good-humoured, respectful of his employers but not obsequious. His main role is to be a model, a guide, a surrogate father to Hally; to help him find his way and do his best. He is aware of the shifting world in which he lives, but he is so able that he can adapt.

Because Hally is really an immature young man with misplaced anger—it is really aimed at his bullying father—he zeros in on Sam and treats him disgracefully. Sam rises above it; tries to make Hally see the error of his ways and to bring them both to a place to try again to understand each other. That Hally does not take the opportunity could make one feel that the situation is hopeless. But the real hope in Fugard’s wonderful, moving play and Philip Akin’s exquisitely sensitive production of it is that the hope for South Africa is really with Sam and Willie. They are the ones who will move forward and change the world they live in. That Willie tells Sam he won’t beat up his partner again is a huge declaration. That they both support and encourage each other and understand each other’s pain is hope in neon.

The production is a gift. Please see it.

Produced by the Shaw Festival

Opened: July 22, 2016
Closes: Sept. 10, 206.
Cast: 3 men
Running Time: 90 minutes.

www.shawfest.com

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The following two shows were broadcast on Friday, July 22, 2016. CIUT FRIDAY MORNING, 89.5 fm: Our Beautiful Sons: Remembering Matthew Dinning at the Blyth Festival until Aug. 6, 2016 and The Taming of the Shrew in Withrow Park for this week.

The host was Phil Taylor.

(PHIL)
Good Friday morning. It’s theatre fix time with Lynn Slotkin our Theatre Critic and Passionate Playgoer. What do you have this week?

(LYNN)
I have two plays as usual. First from the Blyth Festival in Blyth Ontario, we have Our Beautiful Sons: Remembering Matthew Dinning by Christopher Morris, in which two parents must make a terrible decision about their son Brendon.

And the other is The Taming of the Shrew by Shakespeare of course, playing in Withrow Park, produced by the Driftwood Theatre Company. This is a Taming of the Shrew with a provocative twist.

(PHIL)
Let’s get started with Our Beautiful Sons: Remembering Matthew Dinning. What’s the terrible decision the parents have to make?

(LYNN)
A bit of background. The Blyth Festival does original Canadian plays usually about stories reflecting the area around Blyth. Our Beautiful Sons: Remembering Matthew Dinning is a true story. Matthew Dinning was the eldest of two sons of Laurie and Lincoln Dinning. Matthew always wanted to help people. In his early 20s he wanted to go to Afghanistan, join the military and help, not necessarily to fight, but that of course would be involved. He was assigned with five other soldiers to protect the general.

Matthew was killed with many of his colleagues in a road side bombing. He was 23. We learn this early in the first act. The military has come calling because Matthew’s younger brother Brendon also wants to go to Afghanistan. The military feels that since the parents have lost so much, they should have their say and make the decision about whether Brendon should go or not. The play deals with the problem from all sides and how everybody is affected with it—meaning his parents and Brendon.

And we see flashbacks with Matthew. But the play really focuses on his mother, Laurie.

(PHIL)

How so?

(LYNN)
Well Laurie is grieving and angry as she takes her journey. She decided to walk the Camino with Matthew—meaning she took some of his ashes with her on her journey.

Occasionally he appears to her. So we get a sense of his relationship with his mother. She has to cope with her husband Lincoln who does not grieve in the same way. He is a police officer. So in a way Laurie is raging against a world on her own, but she really has support. In Christopher Morris’s play it’s easy to see how married couples split up when a child dies, but he never makes it simple.

(PHIL)
Does the play prove its case?

(LYNN)
Act One sets out the details and Act II expands on them and the characters. I initially was concerned that we hear from everybody around Matthew why he wanted to go to Afghanistan but not clearly from him. We get that in Act II. We also hear that his brother Brendon always did what his brother Matthew did. That does not seem a good reason to risk your life to go to Afghanistan. But again, Christopher Morris is too good a playwright to make the problem simple. He fleshes out the reasons and the characters and makes this a complex play full of dilemmas and compassion.

(PHIL)
Does the production live up to the play?

(LYNN)
It does. The set (Gillian Gallow) is a bit askew, a window is embedded in the wall and it’s on a tilt, as are appliance and cupboards. Here is the world of the Dinning family, unsettled and unbalanced as one would expect after such a shattering experience. Gil Garrett has directed this with care and imagination. When Major Boucher, comes to speak to the parents regarding Brendan, Garrett places the man in a chair with his back to us. The parents face him.

This is a wonderfully clever move because the actor, Jesse laVercombe, playing Major Boucher, also plays Matthew—with boyish swagger. So when we don’t see his face initially as the Major, it’s not confusing when he comes on later as Matthew.

The acting is strong and sensitive as one might expect. But Rebecca Auerbach deserves special attention as Laurie. This is a searing performance of a mother in true pain at the love and loss of her son, and the terrible decision the parents have to make regarding their other young son and his desire to go to Afghanistan. That is conveyed in Auerbach’s performance.

I’m sure a lot of parents have been in this position when their young sons want to go to a war zone to help or fight. Gripping play.

(PHIL)
Tell us about the always problematic, The Taming of the Shrew.

(LYNN)
This production as we learned last week when I interviewed Jeremy Smith, the director, is set in 1989 in Toronto during Pride. Always problematic– a man, Petruchio has decided to tame and marry the shrew named Katharine.

As the oldest daughter of Baptista (now a women in this production) Katharine must marry first in order for her young sister Bianca to marry—and Bianca has a lot of suitors, including one, Lucentio, whose gender seems a mystery. Bianca is still smitten with the sexually mysterious Lucentio. When Katharine meets Petruchio sparks do fly. Petruchio is domineering and smarmy to her. She is angry and fights back.

But Jeremy Smith also creates a concept in which there is subtle consensual games playing in the area of dominant/submissive role playing between Katharine and Petruchio. Jeremy Smith is always careful in his cutting of the plays for his productions.
Here he has changed/bent genders.

(PHIL)
Does it work?

(LYNN)
I think for the most part it does. I was won over. I’ve seen a lot of Jeremy Smith’s productions of Shakespeare and I always find that his main aim is to serve the play. With The Taming of the Shrew he also reflects our changing world, albeit 1989, and he uses a play that has always been vilified. I think it’s a bold idea and I buy into it.

And after seeing some lousy acting of Shakespeare when I went to High Park recently, I was grateful for this production of The Taming of the Shrew. The acting is strong and they have a handle on the language and how to say it.

I know the setting is rustic—in a park with all manner of distractions going on and perhaps some slack should be given—but really, if you are going to put on a play by Shakespeare, I don’t think it unreasonable for the actors to have some facility with the language.

As Petruchio, Geoffrey Armour has an impish charm and a commanding presence. He’s not overbearing and plays into the role playing of submissive and dominant. As Katharine, Siobhan Richardson is tough and but malleable. Her Katharine matches Petruchio point for point. Together they might play the submissive/dominant game but they do it as equal, consensual partners.

I was particularly intrigued by the sexually mysterious Lucentio played with swaggering style by Fiona Sauder. This is a character who keeps us guessing but truly engaged.

This company does theatre all over the province and is at Withrow Park just off the Danforth this week. I think both shows—Our Beautiful Sons: Remembering Matthew Dinning and The Taming of the Shrew are worth a visit….

(PHIL)
Thanks Lynn. That’s Lynn Slotkin, our theatre critic and passionate playgoer. You can read Lynn’s blog at www.slotkinletter.com twitter @stotkinletter.com

Our Beautiful Sons: Remembering Matthew Dinning plays at the Blyth Festival until August 6, 2016.

www.blythfestival.com

The Taming of the Shrew plays in Withrow Park until the end of the week and at various stops in Ontario.

www.driftwoodtheatre.com

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At the Royal George Theatre, Shaw Festival, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.

Written by W.S. Gilbert
Directed by Morris Panych
Sets by Ken MacDonald
Costumes by Charlotte Dean
Lighting by Alan Brodie
Original music by Ryan deSouza
Cast: Julia Course
Diana Donnelly
Matthew Finlan
Mary Haney
Martin Happer
Claire Jullien
Jeff Meadows
Gray Powell
Ric Reid
Nicole Underhay
Shawn Wright

A seriously funny, intensely silly play done absolutely straight which adds to the hilarity.

The Story. Cheviot Hill, dashing, moneyed and still single at 32, never met a woman with who he didn’t fall in love. Instantly. His train has had some trouble in the village of Gretna, on the border between England and Scotland, and the passengers have to de-train. They are offered help and lodging by some enterprising townsfolk namely Angus Macalister (who deliberately caused the train to derail in order to get the business of the passengers). Angus is in love with Maggie Mcfarlane and she with him. He proposes and she accepts. But then Cheviot sees Maggie and professes his love to her and she is bewitched by him. In the course of the play Cheviot will be besotted by four other women including Maggie’s matter-of-fact-mother, but only fleetingly.

Love might drive the stories but money is at the heart of them. People who don’t have it want it. People who have it want to keep it. Everybody is plotting in the most convoluted of ways to get it from people they think have it. It’s dizzying.

The Production. Director Morris Panych is very serious about comedy as one can see from his many productions for the Shaw Festival and environs. He knows that the key to realizing the comedy is to play the play very seriously and this is certainly true in Engaged (never mind that W.S. Gilbert noted playing the comedy very seriously in his stage directions—it’s just a truism of good comedy).

Set designer Ken MacDonald has created a wild world of blazing colour and gigantic, eye-popping flowers—flowers as background; flowers as embroidery on pillows on couches with flowers in the design of the fabric. As Cheviot Hill’s eye roves and is dazzled by the next woman to come into his view, so MacDonald creates sets that go with that world that attracts our attention but doesn’t detract from the play. Charlotte Dean’s costumes have their own wit but serve the character as well.

The cast is a joy, taking every bit of business that Morris Panych offers them and flying with it. Leading the pack of serious comedic actors is Gray Powell as Cheviot Hill. Powell is such a gifted actor. He imbues his characters with a truth that is unwavering. Cheviot Hill is committed to every woman he falls in love with. It is instantaneous. As played by Gray Powell it is convincing. We never think anything but that he is deeply in love. We know it’s folly. He doesn’t and we just go with him. Cheviot Hill is not thrown by any obstacle in the road to love. He adapts, deflects, ducks and misses anything that will stop him in his quest. Words and excuses fall trippingly from his mouth. He’s a master of glibness. As his hands plough through his hair for more inspiration Powell ramps up his characterization. Masterful.

Julia Course as Maggie Mcfarlane and Martin Happer as Angus Macalister, Maggie’s intended, wring every curlicue from their characters’ respective Scottish accents and make us listen intently. All deadly serious. All hilarious. And there are bagpipes too. Wonderful.

Comment. Gilbert without Sullivan. But you certainly see the wit and whimsy that W.S.Gilbert would instil in his lyrics written to the music of his writing partner Sir Arthur Sullivan for their many Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. But Gilbert on his own skewered many sacred cows: marriage, love, marrying for money; the Scots. He was a biting social critic with a sharp sense of humour.

In Gilbert’s day (more than 100 years ago) Engaged was billed as a ‘burlesque comedy.’ Today it would be considered a farce. Either way it’s fast paced, funnier with each passing complication, and stinging with its focus on the importance of money above all else.

The Shaw Festival Presents:

Opened: June 24, 2016.
Closes: October 23, 2016.
Cast: 11; 6 men, 5 women.
Running Time: 2 hours, 20 minutes.

www.shawfest.com

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Snippet Reviews of shows in London, Eng. To be expanded shortly:

>Wild

At the Hampstead Theatre.

Written by Mike Bartlett.

Bartlett’s latest gripping play about a man named Edward who released thousands of secret documents onto the internet because he wanted a fair playing field. He is now in a hotel room in Russia being interrogated by two people. He does not know who they represent or what side they are on. By the end of the play his world and that hotel room will turn upside down, literally. And for all his idealism, his actions did not make one bit of difference.

Startling, compelling play.

>Sunset at the Villa Thalia

At the Dorfman Theatre, National Theatre.

A young British couple on a Greek island invite an American couple for dinner. The American husband is a ‘floater’, who works in diplomacy, more like spying. His wife drinks too much and is a bit of a twit. The British couple are seduced by the ‘charisma’ of the American man. We are wary of him because we catch him in a lie. He is involved in nasty business.

A wank of a play. It’s not an allegory about the ugly American. Or about American-British politics. It’s just pretending to be about something important.

Cuttin’ It.

At the Royal Court Upstairs.

About Female Genital Mutilation in the Sudanese culture. Brutal and important. Beautifully acted.

Unreachable.

A young film director hold up production of his film waiting for the perfect light. The play was created in the rehearsal hall between the cast and the ‘playwright’ director. Some of the funniest lines I’ve heard in a long time. The final scene is a wonder of animation and streaming light and confetti that showers the audience. All of which has nothing to do with the film we are told they are filming. Weird.

Richard III

At the Almeida Theatre

Ralph Fiennes plays Richard III. Vanessa Redgrave plays Mad Queen Margaret. Rupert Goold directs one of the dreariest, dull, boring, static productions of this gripping play. Ralph Fiennes speaks clearly and crisply but there is no sense of nuance, charm, wit, evil, or calculation. He speaks the lines and that’s it. He is fine on film and a bore on stage.

Into the Woods

At the Menier Chocolate Factory.

Stephen Sondheim’s musical about fairy tales and spooky woods. Done by the fabulously inventive Fiasco Company from New York. Terrific.

Faith Healer

At the Donmar Warehouse.

Brian Friel’s three character, four scene play about a charismatic faith healer who is a liar, a cheat and destructive. Terrific production.

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At Bush Hall, London, Eng.

Written by Melissa Bubnic
Directed by Amy Hodge
Designed by Joanna Scotcher
Lighting by Lee Curran
Sound by Emma Laxton
Pianist: Jennifer Whyte
Cast: Kirsty Bushell
Ellora Torchia
Chipo Chung
Emily Barber
Helen Schlesinger

The premise is that to make it in the ruthless man’s world women have to be as ruthless as a man. Sigh. How simplistic.

The Story. Astrid Wentworth is a City trader in a stock broker firm. She is the only woman in that male world and she is ruthless in her job and in that man’s world. She says she is no friend of ‘the sisterhood. “I’m basically a man who sits to pee.” But then a young woman, Priya Sengupta, applies for a junior trading job in the firm and after an aggressive interview, Astrid is convinced to give Priya a chance. Astrid has warned her that women are treated like dirt in the firm but she does give Priya a chance.

The Production
. Because the Bush Theatre proper is being renovated, this production takes place in the interesting Bush Hall, just up the Uxbridge Road.

Designer, Joanna Scotcher has designed this as part cabaret with tables on the main floor. There is a pianist placed in the middle of the floor who offers incidental music as we file in, and plays while Astrid sings. There is a stage proper at one end of the space with three doors on the stage that represent bathrooms.The audience sits around three quarters of the space.

All the characters, including the men, are played by women. Scotcher dresses the men in slim fitting blue suits. The jacket is short and buttons to a synch at the waist. Some wear ties. Some don’t. The shoes are sturdy clunkers with a thick, highish heel. A woman would wear them but they wouldn’t be stylish. Astrid wears the same kind of suit only with red high heels. The suit on her does not look stylish but rather chintzy. Interesting. So she’s dressing like ‘the boys’ but with killer heels in a killer colour.

Astrid makes no bones about her being as ruthless as a man. She says she does not have any sad story of being diddled by her father or an uncle to justify her behavior. She just plays the man’s game as the men she works with. She tells us all this as she is holding a microphone, singing to us as if in a cabaret. I’m not sure I understand why.

Astrid is in the bar by herself and makes quite a moment of it. She self-deprecates that it’s pathetic. She comments that the young bartender gives her her drink and says it’s on the house, because she imagines he’s doing it out of mercy and also imagines he might want sex with her (mercy) later. This pisses her off. The same standard would not apply to a man alone in the bar.

Astrid meets a hooker in the bar named Isabelle (a smart, dangerous Chipo Chung). She’s smartly dressed and tough but not tough like a man. She and Astrid begin a relationship—I believe it involves payment. Isabelle is ‘working’.

When Astrid interviews Priya two toilets are rolled out from behind two of the doors on the stage. The women sit on the toilets (covers down) as if they are sitting on chairs. Priya wears a frowzy black suit (jacket and skirt). Later when she has the job, Astrid makes her buy the same kind of ‘power’ pant suit and heels that she (Astrid) is wearing. Priya does all the menial jobs that Astrid asks of her and proves herself.

Amy Hodge has directed this with energy, efficiency and swiftness. Part of the action takes place on a section above the stage, with some of the cast acting as singing chorus. In this world the men in power swagger, sit with their legs apart, grimace and pass judgement with a sneer. This includes Astrid, played with cold-eyed vigor by Kirsty Bushell. Her boss is Arthur Beale, a ruthless, calculating man played by a scary, ruthless, manipulative Helen Schlesinger. Priya is played by Ellora Torchia with edge but femininity. She has not given over to that macho world, even when she is raped and videoed during an evening of heavy drinking.

This is when that sordid world ramps up. Priya wants justice. Astrid abandons her. Arthur does damage control and maneuvering. Astrid says that even by signing an agreement to not bring charges as long as the people responsible are fired, and that means Astrid as well, Astrid says that Priya will never get ahead. They won’t give her leads. Really? And the fact that she is videoed being raped and it’s gone viral wouldn’t also suggest she is done in that world. But she does get revenge—she gets all the perpetrators fired, for the time being at least. Astrid threatens Arthur, but here too he out plays her.

And in a final moment Astrid does tell us that when she was a girl, she was sexually abused by an older man. Cop out in neon. Not a nice world, this.

Comment. Where to begin? Really? The only way for Astrid to get ahead is to play and act like a man? How boring. And pedestrian. Ok it’s a cruel world in which women are treated like crap, but we get this from Astrid who is not really a reliable source. There is no shred of womanliness but she is dispensed with as anyone who would get in Arthur’s way. In Arthur’s world there is only the deal. Anyone who is weak is dispensable. Astrid is formidable but she still a woman in those men’s eyes so her point of acting like a man, is moot. She’s good at her job. End of conversation.

And as I said above, having a sad story for Astrid is a cop out to explain her clear idea of how to get ahead. There is no comparable story for the men. Should there not be? Or do we assume that all men in that world of stock brokering are sharks out to kill everybody without there being a back story? That seems a bit simplistic too. Sigh.

Presented by the Bush Theatre and Headlong

First performance: June 25, 2016
I saw it: July 6, 2016.
Closes: July 30, 2016.
Cast: 5 women
Running Time: 2 hours approx.

www.bushtheatre.co.uk

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At the National Theatre, Olivier Theatre, London, Eng.

Written by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill
New adaptation by Simon Stephens
Directed by Rufus Norris
Designed by Vicki Mortimer
Music Director, David Shrubsole
Choreography by Imogen Knight
Lighting by Paule Constable
Sound by Paul Arditti
Cast: Sarah Amankwah
Hammed Animashaun
Toyin Ayedun-Alase
Jamie Beddard
Andrew Buckley
Ricky Butt
Mark Carroll
Rosalie Craig
Matt Cross
Haydn Gwynne
Nick Holder
George Ikediashi
Peter de Jersey
Rory Kinnear
Debbie Kurup
Conor Neaves
Sharon Small
Wendy Somerville
Dominic Tighe

An angry, contemporary version of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s opera about the thieving class stiffing the upper class but not before they stiff each other. And Mack the Knife is in the thick of it with his womanizing, scheming, and slicing his enemies. That is one big knife he carries.

The Story. East London, around the time of the coronation of the king but with a modern sensibility. Captain Macheath, AKA ‘Mack the Knife’ has just married Polly Peachum, daughter of Mr. Peachum, leader of a huge band of beggars and petty thieves. They rob from anybody and don’t trust anyone. Polly seems prim and proper—she’s an accountant, but she’s tough and smart. Mrs. Peachum, Polly’s femme fatale Mum, has also had a fling with Mack and she’s furious for being passed over.

Mack has had several liaisons with several women. Everybody knows something about everybody else and they hold that information close to their chests until the time comes to use it as leverage. It comes when too many women have been jilted by Mack—one being Lucy Brown, daughter of Chief Inspector ‘Tiger’ Brown. Mack is turned into the police and is set to hang. Life is mean and cruel. Will Mack get his just desserts?

The Production. Director Rufus Norris places this in the grunge of the unadorned Olivier stage. Designed by Vickie Mortimer, this is anything but haphazard. It is a bleak, dark world. Flats stand over there; bits and pieces of props are scattered. Not a pretty world.

Rory Kinnear as Mack the Knife comes out with a mop and mops the perimeter of the playing area. He is dapper in a three piece dark blue suit with a knife that looks to be a foot long, which he neatly places in his inside jacket pocket—that is one long pocket. His eyes are rimmed with black. He looks neat, fastidious and dangerous. Well that knife will certainly give one pause. He is both angelic and sneering and on top of all the other brilliant things this gifted actor does he can sing too.

The whole rag-tag cast are haunted-looking. Mr. Peachum (Nick Holder) is a sartorial, portly fellah with a penchant for women’s low heels and the occasional fetching woman’s wig. Holder is that kind of dangerous man, like Mack the Knife, who wields power by speaking quietly and slowly. He make threats and keeps them. He warns Jenny Diver to tell him where Mack is or he will break her finger. She hesitates. He goes at that finger and we hear the most gut-twisting crunching sound of the finger being cracked. And the audience cringes.

Walls of flats are made of paper. Characters bash through them for a very dramatic effect. Mack’s knife is seen slicing through the paper on the edge of the flat then he crashes through. Moveable staircases are used to move scene and for a starling moment.

While the world of the play is sordid and bleak, there is of course a lot of humour. Mack trying to sweet-talk his way out of tight situations is masterful as the slippery-tongued Kinnear puts on the charm and just wins over woman after woman, no matter how hardened. In one scene that is very dramatic, operatic even, the whole cast arrive with metal caps with horns—Brunhilda comes to East London!

By using Simon Stephen’s new adaptation the language is hard, harsh, contemporary and vulgar. I don’t hear the ‘c’ word. That’s interesting. There are combinations of all sorts of others, especially “fuck”. I wait for the intake of air in my audience, many of whom have never seen this before (incredible) but they go with the flow.

One scene makes me suck air. Mack has gone to his favourite brothel for some female entertainment. He chooses a young prostitute named Betty. He punches a hole in the paper of a flat. He takes her head and bends her forward so her head goes through the hole. He holds her head with one hand, flips up the back of her skirt with the other and then puts his index finger and next finger in his mouth to moisten them and then his hand disappears behind Betty. We know what he’s doing and she’s cringing. Woow.

After the intermission Mack enters tying his tie bantering with the audience that they stayed and didn’t leave. And says “Welcome to the UNITED Kingdom.” It gets applause except from the woman behind me who yells that she is independent. A few days after the referendum and the country, or at least this city is in turmoil. Yikes.

The singing from top to bottom is strong and biting. Haydn Gwynne is a mournful, tough Mrs. Peachum. Rosalie Craig as Polly wears glasses that make her look like a staid accountant. Her voice tends to be shrill for my tastes but she is no pushover. As Jenny Diver, Sharon Small is frowsy, hardened by that life and sings beautifully.

The wondrous Paule Constable has lit this so that the eyes look hollow and deadly. The lighting is harsh and shadowy.

I love every note of this abrasive musical, but wonder why there is not list of songs and who sings them. A quibble.

Comment
. We know about Brecht’s wish to alienate, shake, rattle and roll the audience into listening to the arguments and not get too close to any character. Ok theory is nice but people like to root for someone. That’s the nature of theatre. I can appreciate Brecht’s attempt. I love this hard-nosed, angry, vicious musical about how it’s a dog eat dog life. Sentiment has no place here. Liked this production a lot.

Presented by the National Theatre.

Performances Began: May 18, 2016.
I saw it: June 28, 2016.
Cast: 19; 12 men, 7 women.

www.nationaltheatre.org.uk

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At Styx, Tottenham Hale, London, Engl.

Written by Philip Ridley
Directed by Max Barton
Designed by Shawn Soh
Co-Designed by Frankie Bradshaw
Lighting by Ric Mountjoy
Composer and sound by Jethro Cooke
Cast: Obi Abili
Tony Bell
Emily Burnett
Lynette Clarke
Emily Forbes
Lanre Malaolu
Caroline Parker
Theo Solomon
Charmaine Wombwell

A typical Philip Ridley voyage into hell. He writes of a world of demons, violence, mayhem and the survival of the most ruthless. A riveting production.

The Story. Only the text synopsis will do for this “fantasy epic.” “On a beautiful spring evening—when both moons are full—two teenagers vow eternal love. It is a moment that will have cataclysmic consequences. Not just for them, but for the world on which they live. A world where Prom Night is a matter of life and death, where weapons are grown and trained like pets, and where a chosen few are hearing a voice. A voice that speaks of….Karagula.

Philip Ridley’s Karagula is a story of epic proportions. Written in fractured timescale, it explores our constant need to find meaning. To believe we’re here for a reason. To have faith in something. Faith in…anything.”

Whew! Just to add to give you a sense of the weird-oddness of the piece, Dean and Libby are the couple. He was to be picked Prom King and in this town of Mareka that meant that the Prom King was to be killed as a sacrifice. Then the assassin was to be hunted down. It seems that Mitch, a leading guy of the town, wanted to be Prom King. When he didn’t get it he fashioned this revenge and the people followed through with it. Over time Mitch becomes Grand Marshall of the town. We soon learn this means “dictator.”

The Production. Director, Max Barton is a wizard at creating this forbidding world. His design team are also masters. The first Act takes place in a space with the audience on either side of the playing space. I particularly love his neat, unobtrusive set changes. While scenes are played at one end of the space, an elaborate new set is established just off from there, in dark, totally silent.

The second Act takes place in another area of Styx, with the audience facing the stage, set in a nether world of hideous creatures and names of characters either from ancient history or outer space films. Mitch is totally out of control and is finally challenged.

The acting is stellar with many actors playing several parts. The design team of Shawn Soh and Frankie Bradshaw create some of the most inventive costumes I’ve ever seen. There are creatures covered in a kind of shaggy fur; two characters are enveloped in a mass of what looks like video tape and stiff plastic ties used to contain computer wires and keep them neat. All one could see of the character is a face and hands and feet on the ground. Another costume is all white with sharp quills-pointed needles protruding out front and back on a white vest. There are also needles coming out of the head piece.

The colour scheme seems to be black, white and pink. The men and women wear hot pink pants, suits, shoes, jackets and variations of that for the whole three hour show. Whimsy when you least expect it. The production also uses technology, computer generated images, and all manner of sophisticated images.

Comment. Philip Ridley wrote Pitchfork Disney, which was given a wonderful, eerie production earlier in the year by director John Shooter. Ridley writes of the dark side of life. He writes of a world gone mad. We are never without a ruthless dictator, or a religious war, or those wanting to control minds, so his plays fit right in. I thought of 1984 as an example of this kind of world. Karagula takes off from there.

Coincidentally John Shooter is in London so we went to see this together. At one point we looked at each other and asked, “Do you know what’s going on?” And while the details of what is going on get lost in the swirl of time and activity, the production is never less than riveting. The writing is strong in setting the tone and time. The direction and certainly the design envelope you in this world, leaving you breathless at the end.

The venue (Styx) is interesting and apt. A sign says it’s a place to tell stories. The ‘lobby’ is an outdoor area covered with a tent top. Food and drink are served. There are uneven wooden-walkways leading to the various areas of the space. There is a pool of water in the middle. Couches and benches are arranged around the edges. A make-shift garden is also there. The house manager has planted herbs and flowers and he waters them with a pitcher of water he gets from the pool. How anything grows under the tent top is a mystery. He has also planted mint in the same area as the herbs and flowers. Brave, that. Mint is an aggressive weed that will take over. That seems fitting for a play about dictators who want to take over.

Produced by PIGDOG

Opened: June 10, 2016.
Saw it: June 27, 2016.
Closes: July 9, 2016.
Cast: 9; 4 men, 5 women

www.sohotheatre.com

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At the Hearn Generating Station, 440 Unwin St. Toronto, Ont.

Written by Rona Munro
Directed by Laurie Sansom
Musical director, Alasdair Macrae
Set and Costumes by Jon Bausor
Lighting by Philip Gladwell
Sound (James I and II) by Christopher Schutt
Sound (James III) by Nick Sagar
Composer (James I and II), Paul Leonard-Morgan
Composer (James III), Will Gregory
Cast: Rosemary Boyle
Daniel Cahill
All Craig
Malin Crépin
Blythe Duff
Nicholas Elliott
Peter Forbes
Andrew Fraser
Dani Heron
Brian James O’Sullivan
Sian Mannifield
David Mara
Steven Miller
Calum Morrison
Matthew Pidgeon
Sally Reid
Andrew Rothney
John Stahl
Andrew Still
Fiona Wood

NOTE: Because of scheduling I could only see all the plays on the last weekend.

A mammoth undertaking by the National Theatre of Scotland focusing on the reigns of three kings of Scotland from 1406 to 1488 that illustrates how these ancient kings have a modern application.

The Stories: James 1: The Key Will Keep the Lock. James I has been held in an English prison since he was 13. After 18 years in prison he is returned to Scotland to rule. He has tremendous opposition from the warring families who have been ruling in his place. He is forward thinking, a poet, a law-maker and comes to the role of king like a natural. He marries an Englishwoman and is determined to bring the rule of law for everyone to Scotland. This is the most satisfying of the three plays.

James II: Day of The Innocents
James II had a terrible childhood. He was abandoned by his mother and separated from his sisters, he was controlled by the warring families in Scotland. He found solace in a trunk where he could hid from his nightmares. His only friend is William Douglas. William is also a lonely boy whose only aim is to please his unkind, unloving father, the Earl of Douglas.

Savagery surrounds them and the boys bond seemingly for life. James becomes a watchful, thoughtful man and William becomes a bloodthirsty warrior. Because James II is a sensitive soul his grip on his crown, when trying to rule is a challenge. The fighting surrounding him is bloody. He marries and becomes a father. William is a trusted member of his court, but he too proves to be a liability. This play focuses on the relationship of James and William. It does illuminate the politics of Scotland but I found the relationship of the two men more of the focus.

James III: The True Mirror

James III of Scotland is a showman and charismatic. He loves finery, art, beauty and music. His ideas are big and expensive and his doesn’t care how it’s paid for as long as he gets his way. While he professes to be loyal to his wife his eye roves towards women and men equally.

His wife, Queen Margaret of Denmark, has more sense about how to rule and be fiscally responsible. She does rule for a few years and it’s relatively peaceful. But the country and its restless volatile ruling families are itching for a fight. Civil war is not far off.

This section is the most unsatisfactory for me, needing cutting and focusing. Ok we get it, James III is a fashion plate and irresponsible. We don’t need two hours and forty minutes or so to keep telling us.

The Productions
: Director, Laurie Sansom’s vision is spare and clear. A giant sword hangs down from the flies and the tip touches the stage. Mighty impressive. It says everything about the plays and Scotland. War and violence rule or is in the background. Jon Bausor’s design is also pared down. It serves the stories.

The acting for the most part is stellar. Steven Miller is a thoughtful, wise, compelling James I. Rosemary Doyle is a very strong Joan in James I. Blyth Duff is the frighteningly powerful, vengeful mother, Isabella Stewart in James I and II, Andrew Rothney as James II is fretful, timid, frightful and eminently watchable. As William, Andrew Still gets more and more focused and crazed in his ruthless quest for more. And one senses that he’s in love with James. Matthew Pidgeon is peacock proud as James III and one can see how both men and women would fancy him.

The only weakness is Malin Crépin as Margaret, Queen of Denmark. While she certainly is statuesque and queenly, I found her delivery plodding and labored.

Still for the most part, this is a strong company and very able to convey the hugeness of the stories.

Comment. Playwright Rona Munro wrote the James plays to coincide with the Scottish Referendum in which the people of Scotland voted to either stay in the United Kingdom or to separate and go it alone. The speech of James I railing that Scotland was sick of living under the thumb of an outside power, or the many and various speeches in each play in which King James I, II and/or III are urged to be independent and to go forward into the unknown, makes it very clear were Munro’s sentiments lay. That these plays have just finished an international tour (concluding in Toronto for Luminato) so soon after he Brexit vote once again illustrates how theatre holds a mirror up to reality.

Each play illustrates the nuts and bolts of kingship; diplomacy; how violence rules in many cases; how means of ruling vary from king to king; how history repeats itself; how human nature, jealousy, terror, loneliness, infidelity and love haven’t changed much over the last 600 years, whether you’re a king or not.

Rona Munro’s accomplishment in completing such a mammoth undertaking is mighty impressive. James I: The Key Will Keep The Lock beautifully and carefully illustrates the rise and history of James I; the overwhelming opposition he had from the various ruling families; and having to deal with a poor country with empty coffers. He was a forward thinking king who learned from his years of captivity. Trying to pass that knowledge and thinking on to his subjects was dramatic in itself.

But one can’t help thinking that James II: Day of the Innocents and James III: The True Mirror (in particular) could have benefitted from some judicious cutting. The is a lot of repetition and elongating in both these two parts.

Still glad I saw them all though. And for these huge plays the hulking, forbidding Hearn Generating Station proved to be an appropriate site.

Presented by the National Theatre of Scotland.

Opened: June 16, 2016
Closed: June 26, 2016.

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At the Avon Theatre, Stratford Festival, Stratford, Ont.

Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by Hugh Wheeler
Directed by Gary Griffin
Musical director, Franklin Brasz
Designed by Debra Hanson
Lighting by Kevin Fraser
Projection Consultant, Brad Peterson
Sound by Peter McBoyle
Cast: Matt Alfano
Gabriel Antonacci
Sean Arbuckle
Ben Carlson
Juan Chioran
Cynthia Dale
Rosemary Dunsmore
Sara Farb
Barbara Fulton
Alexis Gordon
Ayrin Mackie
Yanna McIntosh
Stephen Patterson
Jennifer Rider-Shaw
Kimberly-Ann Truong

An uneven production (dare one say, sloppy) of Stephen Sondheim’s sublime musical, with a director more interested in moving furniture to change scenes than in helping actors desperate for direction, but with performances from Ben Carlson and Yanna McIntosh (among others) that are wonderful.

The Story. Stephen Sondheim’s 1973 musical is suggested by Ingmar Berman’s 1955 film Smiles of a Summer Night. A Little Night Music takes place in Sweden at the turn of the last century. Fredrik Egerman, a middle aged lawyer, is trying to please his very young wife, Anne, with theatre tickets to a French comedy starring Désirée Armfeldt. Frederick and Anne have been married for eleven months and have not consummated the marriage because at 18, Anne is timid, afraid of sex, or perhaps sex with Fredrik. Fredrik is frustrated. Years before he married Anne he had an affair with Désirée Armfeldt. Now after the French comedy Fredrik goes to Désirée for solace, even though they haven’t seen each other for at least 14 years.

To complicate matters Fredrik’s nineteen-year-old son Henrik, from a previous marriage, is secretly in love with Anne. And there are further complications: Désirée has a very pompous dragoon as a lover—who in turn is married as well. It’s Sweden. They don’t get enough sunlight. It wrecks havoc on people’s emotions.

The Production. Five formally dressed Lieder Singers set the tone and elegance of the musical and give hints of the stories to come, but the production is marred by over-amplification. What is this penchant for microphoning both the orchestra and the cast then ramping up the sound so that you almost can’t make out the lyrics and the music sounds harsh? It’s Sondheim! If you can’t make out the lyrics and the music the point is wasted. The audience is there to listen. Trust them to do it. Cut the amplification down by half, please!

There is such a sense of clutter and busy stage business in director Gary Griffin’s disappointing production. The cast always seems to be moving and pushing set pieces from one end of the stage to the other, often for no reason or during a scene causing distraction. So many actors need guidance with their intricate characters and the director seems nowhere in attendance except for the ‘look’ of the production and even here there are eye-brow-knitting moments.

In the scene when Fredrik and Anne go the theatre to see Désirée in her play, Fredrik and Anne sit in a box stage right, watching Désirée and two characters do a scene, facing downstage, towards the audience. There is a projection at the back of the set of a multi-tiered, very ornate theatre with plush seats, facing the audience (us). The projection is in the wrong place. It’s backwards if the action of the scene is played downstage towards the audience (us). That sight of the rich theatre is what Désirée and her fellow actors on stage would see as they looked out to their audience. It’s not what we (our audience) should be looking at at the back of the set. Is no one in this production paying attention to this stuff? Does the director really care this little?

Debra Hanson’s set, with its odd smoke stacks configuration and overpowering gate and faux foliage, to quote a line from the musical: “was, to put it mildly, peculiar.” Her costumes, on the other hand, are ravishing, elegant, and fitting the time.

This difficult show requires a cast that is strong in both singing and acting; who know how to find the nuance and detail in Hugh Wheeler’s elegant (that word again) text and Sondheim’s intricate lyrics. Four actors hit the mark in spades. As Fredrik, Ben Carlson goes from strength to strength. Whether he is acting in Shakespeare or singing Sondheim, his acting is true, detailed and heartfelt. As Fredrik, Carlson shows the man’s frustration with a young wife and the longing for a former lover. This is a performance full of patience, wit, pent up emotion and courtliness. And he sings beautifully.

As Désirée, Yanna McIntosh has the sass and boldness of an actress forced to tour the country-side in second-rate productions, but still has the allure and class of an actress that can draw crowds. This Désirée is knowing, ironic, sarcastic and coy. McIntosh’s rendering of “Send in the Clowns” is wonderfully heartbreaking. McIntosh conveys Désirée’s initial yearning and disappointment when singing the song for the first time and her quiet joy when singing the reprise that it will all work out.

Juan Chioran brings out all the pomposity and arrogance of Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm. He has the stature and sneer of a man who believes he deserves everything from all his women. Chioran does it with a haughty flair. You are never in doubt that he has “the vanity of a peacock (and ) the brain of a pea” in Chioran’s performance and he does it beautifully. That also carries over in his commanding singing. This is a character that is a pompous fool and totally mesmerizing because of Chioran’s playing of him.

Madam Armfeldt, Désirée’s mother, is a woman with a colourful past; who counts kings among her former lovers. As played by Rosemary Dunsmore, with an impish hauteur, Madam Armfeldt conveys the exasperation of a woman of class who laments her daughter’s messiness in her own affairs. Madam Armfeldt is watchful, all-knowing, impatient with the shoddiness of the ‘modern’ generation who come calling to her estate. Yet has the most delicious whimsy and wry humour when commenting about it all to her granddaughter. Dunsmore brings all this out with economy and the most riveting stillness.

A Little Night Music demands absolute mastery of all its actor/singers, not just four of them. What of those who are floundering and need a strong director’s hand? They seem to be out of luck here. As Anne Egerman, Alexis Gordon (so wonderful last year as Julie Jordan in Carousel) plays the flightiness and girlishness of Anne but does not go deeper to find the emotional uncertainty.

As Countess Charlotte Malcolm, Cynthia Dale is all surface and superficiality. A bright smile and the hint of a furrowed brow does not begin to plum the depths of Charlotte’s character and her conflicted emotions. While Dale hits all the notes in “Every Day A Little Death” she does not realize the emotional rawness in the song. Charlotte has a nimble wit and keen sense of humour, but again Dale ploughs through lines without seeming to know where the laugh is. Case in point: Carl-Magnus tells Charlotte of going to his mistress Désirée’s for part of his leave. He tells Charlotte of finding Fredrik Egerman there, a lawyer. Charlotte says: “What kind of lawyer? Corporation, maritime, criminal—testamentary?” Writer Hugh Wheeler shows the actress playing Charlotte where there is a pause in the list, namely, that dash. And that sets up the joke that follows the dash, namely, the word “testamentary.” Dale doesn’t pause to set up the laugh. And she mispronounces “testamentary,” which doesn’t help either. The stress in on the first syllable and not on the last. Is there nobody to help her, such as the director?

Can somebody please tell Matt Alfano who plays Frid, that Frid is a servant in Sweden at the turn of the 20th century and not someone from a borough of New York City in 2016, who seems fresh from A Chorus Line?

Sara Farb is flirty and sexually charged as Petra, a servant in the Egerman household. She knows how to take advantage of any opportunity that passes by. She belts out “The Miller’s Son” but one wishes it was less an obvious effort of a bravura performance to bite out all those challenging lyrics, and a more varied exploration of the depths of that stunning song.

Comment. Stephen Sondheim writes of the wounded heart, love in all its guises and the folly of people ruled by their emotions like no other living composer for the musical theatre. A Little Night Music is a musical as delicate as a feather on the breeze but with heightened emotions. Characters are fraught, conflicted and often emotionally fragile. It requires a delicate, but firm, directorial hand to realize the subtleties in the piece. Unfortunately it doesn’t have that in Gary Griffin. Actors desperate for guidance don’t seem to get it; a note to ‘bring the performance down a lot’ doesn’t seem to have been given; how to play a part in the time period of the musical and helping an actor find the humour and the laugh in so many lines does not seem to be important in his direction. One also wonders if musical director, Franklin Brasz helped any of the singers who needed guidance to find out what their songs meant.

I am grateful for Ben Carlson, Yanna McIntosh, Juan Chioran and Rosemary Dunsmore for giving performances that are beautifully rendered with all the nuance and shading that is necessary in realizing this difficult, elegant musical. But for the rest, sadly this production of A Little Night Music is a disappointment.

The Stratford Festival Presents:

Opened: June 21, 2016.
Closes: October 23, 2016.
Cast: 18; 7, 11 women
Running Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes, approx.

www.stratfordfestival.ca

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At the Berkeley Street Theatre, Downstairs.

Written by David Hare
Directed by Larry Moss
Designed by Debra Hanson
Lighting by Davida Tkach
Sound by Emily Porter
Cast: Tim Dowler-Coltman
Sara Topham
Lindsay G. Merrithew

An obvious vanity production for Lindsay G. Merrithew with a standout performance by Sara Topham of David Hare’s deeply thought play.

The Story. Kyra Hollis is a schoolteacher living in a flat with little heating in London, on the other side of the cityr from her school. She loves it.

She is visited one cold evening by Edward Sergeant, the 18 year old son of Tom Sergeant, a successful business man and Kyra’s former lover. Kyra and Tom had a six year affair while he was married. Kyra worked for Tom in his restaurant business and was considered a member of the family.

Now Edward comes to say that his mother died the year before and his father and he don’t get along. Edward wants Kyra to talk to his father. This is startling news and it does not have the effect that Edward expected and he leaves. A bit later Tom arrives out of the blue.

He’s successful, confident, controlling, bullying, and knows the weaknesses of his opponents. That’s how he has succeeded. He chips away at Kyra, noting her weaknesses and how she would be better off with him. It’s a rocky night and truths are told.

David Hare has created three fully-developed, complex characters each with their secrets and strengths. It’s interesting to note that Kyra has moved on in those three years and Tom seems to have continued on exactly as he was. He brings her a bottle of whiskey, but she doesn’t drink it—he does because that’s his drink.

He appears to be knowledgeable about Kyra, but is he? Or is he merely self-absorbed. It’s so tempting to dismiss Tom as just a self-centred control freak. It’s to the testament of Hare’s writing that we don’t dismiss Tom. Tom has charm and finesse and he’s a character we like to watch.

The Production. Designer Debra Hanson has created Kyra’s well-worn flat with little heat. A floor heater is downstage right in the corner. Kyra is neat. Things are in their place.

Director Larry Moss negotiates his actors around the space with a lot of care. Kyra especially must carry on a conversation and make a spaghetti dinner from scratch. She’s really cooking. You can hear the onions frying and smell the fragrance as it wafts over the audience. I do wonder why she doesn’t use the bulb of garlic on the counter with the other fixings for the spaghetti.

But Larry Moss should spend more effort in helping two of the three actors capture their characters.

As Edward the son, Tim Dowler-Coltman is so agitate and angry for most of the first scene, I think he would do either himself or Kyra damage. That performance has to be taken down considerably and controlled. Edward is not a hot-head but he is an 18 year old teenager with bubbling emotions. It doesn’t mean he is apoplectic.

As Tom, Lindsay G. Merrithew has the confidence and swagger of Tom but not enough depth, nuance or the many layers of the man. I can appreciate that Mr. Merrithew would want to do this part in this play and so formed a company that would produce it. He needs to go deeper to find Tom’s vulnerability. We should see how wounded he is besides his arrogance and I think that’s missing here.

But Sara Topham as Kyra is the saving grace. This is a character who listens; is smart and knows how to hold her ground. She is in the moment. We can see how she would have fallen in love with that whole family and they with her, until the wife found out about the affair and that’s because Tom was deliberately careless. But we also get the sense of how much she has grown since being away from Tom, and we sense that she realizes how destructive that relationship was.

I like the play a lot. Hare writes so deeply about thorny relationships, controlling situations and those that are loving and carrying.

Comment. Skylight is a watershed in the career of David Hare. Pop psychology here.
In 1992 David Hare married the love of his life, Nicole Fahri, the noted fashion designer.

Skylight was published and produced in 1995 and it’s markedly different from his plays before that time because it’s about relationships and human stories. Up till then Hare wrote about issues—war, the judiciary; the banking system; the muck-racking newspaper business. When he married Fahri his plays changed and Skylight is the first to show that change.

Hare did have relationships before then—muses—Canadian Kate Nelligan was one and he dedicated a play to her, (Plenty) that she starred in. Blair Brown was also a muse. But Fahri and Hare have been married for 24 years and that has affected, enlivened, influenced his plays.

Hidden Cove Productions presents:

Plays until July 9, 2016.
Cast: 3; 2 men, 1 woman.
Running Time: 2 hours.

www.skylightTO.com

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