Bard on the Beach

Hamlet
By Wlliam Shakespeare
Directed by Kim Collier
Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival,
BMO Mainstage at Vanier Park
June 13 to September 12, 2013

Vancouver, BC: It is said that every actor wants to play Hamlet, and many great actors have, on stage and screen. So kudos to Jonathon Young for a passionate and riveting performance that drew fresh nuances from so many familiar lines and garnered a standing ovation from much of the sold-out house. In this marvelously complex play, young Hamlet has to find his path through so many issues; the revelation that the death of his revered father, the King,  was in fact a murder; when this revelation comes from his father's Ghost (Duncan Fraser) can it be real? how could his newly widowed mother turn so quickly to a new lover; what to do with the beautiful young  Ophelia when his thoughts are dominated by the need for revenge? Young makes his interpretation of every line crystal clear.

The Taming of The Shrew by William Shakespeare
Directed by Meg Roe,
Bard on the Beach
Bard Mainstage, Vanier Park,
May 31 till September 22, 2012

Vancouver, BC: When I reviewed the 2007 Bard production of The Taming of the Shrew which I thought to be "one of the best productions I have seen at Bard", my opening remark was "What a great start to the 2007 season."  I can only echo that remark after seeing Meg Roe's entertaining and exuberant interpretation of the play. It's an excellent production and a definite "don't miss it" for Bard fans.

Bob Frazer as Richard III. Photo by David BlueRichard III by William Shakespeare
Directed by Kathryn Shaw
Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival,
Douglas Campbell Studio Stage, Vanier Park.
July 13 to September 23, 2011

Vancouver, BC. At the end of Henry VI: The War of the Roses, I left the Studio Stage theatre looking forward to seeing Bob Frazer as the unrepentantly villainous Richard in the concluding play of Bard's Kings History Play Cycle, Richard III. 

The day of the show's opening was also the first 7 hour marathon day of the intermediate level wine course I am taking. While we learned about regions and varietals, we also tasted 18 wines, 9 during the morning and 9  in the afternoon session. I rushed home to change and made it to Vanier Park in time to pick up The Merchant's Antipasto picnic basket from Emelle's Catering, and wolf it down before the show began. I was worried that sheer exhaustion plus whatever alcohol could be left in my system might cause me to nod off but to the contrary, I was riveted throughout the show and could not take my eyes off the stage.

Mention Richard III to most people and whether or not they have seen  Shakespeare's play, they associate his name with the murder of the young Princes in the Tower of London. It's like Medea. Mention her name and the first association is infanticide  not the complex and multi-faceted nature of this woman. So leaving aside the little princes, what is this Richard all about?

antipasto plateKnowing I would not have time for my usual pre-show dinner before the opening night of Richard III at Bard on the Beach, I pre-ordered The Merchant's Antipasto picnic box from Emelle's Catering.

Emelle's Catering offers three types of picnics to patrons going to see Bard on the Beach plays. Provided the order is placed at least 48 hours in advance of the date, your boxed picnic will be waiting for you at the concession stand two hours before curtain time.

dips to dessertI was quite hungry by the time I picked up my picnic, a mere hour before the show was to begin, and I was very keen to see what exactly was inside.

There was three spreads, to eat with the bread sticks or the antipasto vegetables. I loved the fruit salsa of mango and pineapple and the humus.

The charcuterie plate had slices of spicy sausage, pate and cheese and well as roasted and marinated vegetables. The chocolate covered dessert was a tiramisu.

Emelle's Catering on Urbanspoon

Scott Bellis (Duke of York) and Josue Laboucane (Henry VI): Photo by David CooperHenry VI: The Wars of the Roses
adapted and directed by Christopher Weddell
from Henry VI Parts I to III  by William Shakespeare
Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival,
Studio Stage, Vanier Park.
June 30 to September 21, 2011

Vancouver, BC: With Henry VI and Richard III, Bard in the Beach completes the  History Cycle of Shakespeare's plays about the 14th and 15th century Kings of England and the civil wars between the Houses of Lancaster and York, rival families within the royal House of Plantagenet. The play cycle at Vanier Park commenced in 2009 with the production of Richard II and continued in 2010 with Falstaff and Henry V.

The cast fights one of the many wars. Photo by David BlueHere's a quick summary of the saga related in the Kings' plays. Henry IV who had deposed Richard II established the House of Lancaster (red rose) on the throne of England. His wild young son matured into the warrior king, Henry V, he of "once more unto the breach, dear friends" fame. Unfortunately Henry V died young, and his infant son became king Henry VI. Richard, Duke of York (white rose) challenged young Henry's right to the throne and a series of battles between the armies of Lancaster  and York took place over the next thirty some years. Finally a Lancaster, Henry Tudor, defeated Richard III of York. Henry VII married Elizabeth of York to unite the warring houses, and the Tudors ruled England over the next century.

For more background see my 2009 interview with Christopher Gaze on Presenting Shakespeare's Kings History Cycle.

Richard Newman and Lindsey Angell. Photo by David CooperThe Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
Directed by Rachel Ditor,
Bard Mainstage, Vanier Park,
June 15 to Sept 23, 2011

Vancouver, BC: Of all the Shakespeare plays I have seen I find The Merchant of Venice to be among the most compelling yet certainly the most disturbing to watch. While taking into account the likelihood that the play's reception by a contemporary audience would be very different from an audience of Shakespeare's own time, the script sets up so many powerful and conflicting issues that one is on a non-stop rollercoaster ride.

Lois Anderson, Luisa Jojic, Ryan Beil. Photo by David BlueAs You Like It by William Shakespeare
Directed by David Mackay
Bard on the Beach,
Bard Mainstage, Vanier Park,
June 2 to Sept 24, 2011

Vancouver, BC: Bard on the Beach opens its 2011 season with As You Like it - and like it I did, a lot. Though I have always preferred watching the intense drama of Shakespeare's tragedies to the whimsical frolics of mistaken identities and gender bending of his comedies, I really enjoyed this production.

Dean Paul Gibson Falstaff) and Alessandro Juliani (Hal): Photo by David Cooper.Falstaff
Adapted by Errol Durbach from Henry lV, 1 & ll.
Directed by Glynis Leyshon
Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival,
Studio Stage, Vanier Park.
to September 22nd, 2010

Vancouver, BC: Having enjoyed both the Mainstage productions of  Much Ado about Nothing and Antony and Cleopatra, I did not want to miss Bard's two Studio Stage shows of the 2010 season. So before I took off for a London visit to dine and see theatre prior to going Ballroom Dancing round the British Isles, I made my plans to see Falstaff and Henry V on successive nights soon after my return. 

Antony (Andrew Wheeler) besotted by Cleopatra (Jennifer Lines). Photo by David BlueAntony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare
Directed by Scott Bellis
Bard on the Beach
Main Stage, Vanier Park
to September 24, 2010

Vancouver, BC: Chronologically Antony and Cleopatra follows just after three of Shakespeare's most powerful tragedies, Othello, King Lear and Macbeth. Yet although this tragedy chronicles the downfall and the deaths of the heroic Roman, Mark Antony, and Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, it does not make the same emotional impact on me that the fates of Othello and Lear do. 

Perhaps it is because when we first meet Antony in this play, he is already in thrall to Cleopatra and while in her presence, seems to lack the aura of greatness of a heroic figure. There are many ways to play these two characters but mostly we don't get any sense of the power Cleopatra must wield over the Kingdom of Egypt: instead we only see her as  a manipulative coquette, jealous of the other women in Antony's life. So despite their exalted status as Roman triumvir and Ruler, they seem all too human and commonplace in the way their sexual passion ultimately destroys them.

A masquerade ball in Much Ado About Nothing. Photo: David BlueMuch Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
Directed by Dean Paul Gibson
Bard on the Beach
Main Stage , Vanier Park
to September 25, 2010

Vancouver, BC: I confess I really love the play Much Ado about Nothing and it's mainly because of the  verbal sparring between the spirited Beatrice and the self-confident cocky Benedick. I just wish I had their gifts for the snappy comeback - but I guess I need to channel the Bard to really match their wit.

Antonio (Allan Morgan), Beatrice<br />
(Jennifer Lines), Margaret (Sarah Afful) and Ursula (Patti Allan)<br />
comfort Hero (Almeera Jiwa)  Photo: David Blue

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