This past Friday I took in Opening Night of the Freewill Shakespeare Festival. I had never seen King Lear before so I was excited to see it on the line-up this year. I also had donated enough to get myself a VIP Concierge Card so I wanted to put it to good use. It was kind of exciting to be ushered in right away with the Card, however, I do not think we will arrive so early next time. I am an 'early' person and I was still in the frame of mind of when to arrive when I have to line up for good seats so we were there much too early. Now we know. But it was fun to get ushered in, given popcorn and a drink and then sit down and watch the mic checks. Actually, that felt awkward, but again, now I know and I will not go so early next time.
And then the show! I went in cold with no knowledge of the show beyond the program description and what little I knew from general life (mad king, three daughters, two of them flatterers and the other honest... that sort of thing). I really enjoyed it. Having never read the play I had to stayed very focused in the first act because I wanted to know what was going on. I find when I go to Shakespeare I have to work hard to get my Shakespeare brain to click in, but once it does I am good. We are lucky to have such a gifted company here in Edmonton with people who know how to interpret Shakespeare so well because that certainly helps. By the time the second act rolled around I was in and along for the ride! It was such a good show! I am going back next week and plan to read the play in the interim. How often do you get to see Lear? I am making it count! As well, as I have gotten older, I find I enjoy watching the tragedies more... I used to be all about the comedies, but I have shifted a bit in my age...
I was so impressed with both Annette Loiselle as Goneril and Belinda Cornish as Regan. This is a nice meaty play for the women and these two each have embraced their treachery and duplicity, appearing generous in one scene and showing their true natures in the next. Very fun to watch, especially when the big showdown happens. John Wright is perfect for Lear, his madness fickle and childish and then sad and confused. I quite liked Sheldon Elter as the treacherous Edmund, he was such a charming villain, relishing what he could get away with. The whole cast is tremendous, indeed as I looked at the stage at one point I realized that almost any of them could anchor a show and it added so much depth to the entire production have a cast of this caliber. My absolute favourite, however, was John Kirkpatrick as Kent. He is the calm in the storm of madness, just trying to keep Lear safe. There were so many layers to his performance that spoke of the history and love between him and his King and his sadness at the decline of Lear and this was combined with an ease with the language that was simply beautiful.
I will return to Lear next weekend. I am looking forward to seeing it again! I am not sure when I will catch Midsummer, the other Freewill show this season, but from the descriptions and pictures it might be a good one to take the kids to! It looks very colourful and I am intrigued by the casting choices!
On Saturday night I added to my Shakespeare weekend by taking in Joss Whedon's Much Ado at the Princess Theatre. It was so nice to be back in the Princess as I hadn't been there for years. In my university days it was like my second home. I met up with a group of my friends - all Whedon and Shakespeare fans - and we took in the movie. Disclaimer: Much Ado About Nothing is my current favorite Shakespeare play (used to be Twelfth Night, but that changed about 15 years ago). In any case, I really, really liked it. I think it was a nice translation of the script to screen. I found it very accessible and very funny. I thought Alexis Denisof was wonderful as Benedict (so funny) and Amy Acker a delightful and intelligent Beatrice. So many fun moments in the film and wonderful little details. The black and white seems perfect and it was a nice evening out for a film you won't see every weekend in the big theatres.
Never a bad weekend when there is that much Shakespeare!