Vol. 21 No. 8 • February 26 - March 4, 2015 In Our 20th Year Serving Greater Hamilton

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Shaw Festival 2014 Preview

by Robin Pittis
March 13 - 19, 2014
Theatre is to Southern Ontario what chocolate is to the Swiss, and this year the View Theatre Crew get an unusual treat. We have editorial go–ahead to get to Stratford this season! We’re very much looking forward to the Festival. We’ve traditionally been a stubbornly Hamilton community focussed publication, but it does seem unfair to do Shaw and not Stratford. For a non driver like myself it will be a couple of buses, but I’m certain to enjoy the performances.

    So I spent this weekend preparing to comment on the upcoming theatre season at Stratford and Shaw, and a very engaging weekend of intellectual stimulation it was! I got through King John, Lear, The Philanderer, and Arms the Man. My brain hurts a little but I think I understood it all. Impressive communicators both, the Bard and the Fabian, never an unnecessary word. This week’s piece will focus on Shaw, and next week, editor willing, I’ll have a response to the Stratford line up, which is pretty complex and nuanced, and will take some serious consideration to get a handle on.

    I was thinking there might be more World War I related productions, given the centenary but there’s not much in that vein, except Billy Bishop at Aquarius, so far. Both Festivals seem really fixated on the erotic and rambunctiously sexual lately, but that’s theatre for you I guess, and maybe it’s just my perception.

    I don’t know if I’ve used this joke already, but I have been known to describe life in Hamilton as akin to living in a Judith Thompson play. Today I woke up to a four person stabbing on the cover of the Spectator, that took place just down the street. George F. Walker, maybe. Brad Fraser?

    Hamilton definitely has a serious streak of Sean O’Casey about it too. I remember seeing Juno and the Paycock at Stratford with James Blendick as the bumptiously charismatic alcoholic, Brian Tree as his buddy Joxer, and Geoffrey Pounsett as the vanishing lover, if memory serves. It’s a heartbreakingly well observed portrayal of the effect of alcoholism on family, and politics on people, and I’m very much looking forward to Benedict Campbell’s portrayal.

    In The Philanderer, Shaw’s semi–autobiographical play about a compulsively flirtatious philosopher pursued by a persistent and passionate (even understandably vengeful) ex–lover, to the detriment of his relationship with his new paramour, through the rooms of the Ibsen Club where no man may be manly, and no woman womanly. The Shaw welcomes back Gordon “the Devil’s Disciple” Rand in the role of Charteris, the accomplished cad.

    The surprising preponderance of Cabaret is noteworthy too, isn’t it? Personally, I love seeing different artists handle the same material, so I recommend readers hit both the Aquarius and Shaw Versions. There is a deep warning in this play about the rise of systemic victimization and the importance of pluralism and racial tolerance, which is always an important message and one I’m personally very grateful is being repeated twice. The delightfully anarchic sexuality of German underground clubs of the 1930’s will be enjoyed by many.

    Arms and the Man is a delightful, worldly wise, Bulgarian romance, wherein, like many another Shavian play, very smart people do silly things, and nobody ends up where or with who they thought they would. V
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