Shakespeare v.2011

I’m getting so far behind, I’m behind on whining about how far behind I am…even tho it seems like all I really DO on this chud any more.  Haven’t even mentioned either of the Prairie Scene shows I’ve done so far (AVATAR=cool!  TALK=Interesting, but remember your lines, fellas, c’mon), or DELIVER US FROM EVIL at the OLT (also fun).  What these two-second reviews just now tell me, though, is that I have to start putting in the kind of work these shows deserve once again, and that means making myself post about them right after I get home, sleepy or no, cuddly-kitty issues notwithstanding.  Fringe is coming soon, after all, and I have to get in shape!

So after a quiet day at work and a bit of dvd shopping that netted me another Miyazaki flick for my collection (I’m up to 7 now with today’s score of MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO!), it was off, off I went to the Centrepointe Theatre to check out their sweet new studio space (it really is pretty fucking sweet).  and in that studio was something I’d been anticipating for a while now…the debut of the Ottawa Shakespeare Company and HAMLET 2011.

Now, I’ll fess up…when I say ‘anticipating’, that’s not entirely true.  There was, I must say, an element of dread creeping in there too.  Not only was this production, from director Charles McFarland,  on Denis Armstrong’s now-infamous must-see list, but the company had once described the show as Hamlet for the Twilight Generation.  As someone who thinks the Twilight Generation deserves little more than a swift kick in the kidneys and a few forced viewings of TETSUO THE IRON MAN , this worried me, I gotta tell ya.  But, there were good names attached to this show, and dagnabbit, I still wanted to see it.  Surely even Denis could be right ONCE in a while..?

The show is ostensibly set in the present day, tho still using all of the original language from Zombie Bill’s classic text.  But the dress is modern, Hamlet sports a cellphone, Ophelia digs herself some FLORENCE AND THE MACHINE, etc. It’s a ‘twist’ that others have used before, but it all works quite smoothly here…it feels natural, and that I think is largely due to the quality of the performances.  Right off the bat, our leading melancholy Dane, as played by OSC co-founder Michael Mancini hit the ground running.  He starts off brooding, alternately pining over Katie Bunting’s wistful Ophelia and casting daggers at his Mother the Queen (a ravishing Sara Botsford) and her new husband and King Claudius (Andy Massingham in a very, very cool performance).  Enter the ghost, and suddenly we’ve got ourselves a tortured revenge-thriller to last the ages!

Now with 60% more Arcade Fire.

Our hero Hamlet, aided by his close (occasionally VERY close) friend Horatio, aka Scott Angus Wilson, sets about avenging his Father’s untimely murder at the hands of Claudius.  This leads to a lot of unpleasant business, multiple deaths, and a smashing good night at the theatre.  As mentioned, the performances are spot-on…Robert Welch’s Polonius is a wonderfully watchable bootlick, and Brad Long (who must have some sort of sweater-clause in his contracts) rages quite nicely as Laertes.  My beloved UNDER MILK WOOD gang from the Ottawa Theatre School add to the entourage (Henry, Kyla, Jodi, Kaitlin, Diego and Greg) as a number of characters, most notably Diego Arvela’s Rosencrantz (teamed with Stavros Sakiadis as Guildenstern), Jodi Morden’s wonderfully hammy sendup of a travelling tragedian (alongside Peter Haworth in a great play-within-a-play scene), and Henry Shikongo trading barbs with Tania Levy’s hilarious gravedigger in the famous ‘alas Poor Yorick’ bit.  Really, is any scene in Hamlet NOT ‘the famous bit’?

You go up against a lot of baggage when you do Shakespeare, and it looks like the OSC is certainly raring for the challenge.  The production is ambitious and fun, with liberal use of specialized lighting from Rebecca Miller, killer sound, and a smoke machine that just won’t quit.  I had a lot of fun with this one, and you’ve still got a few more days to take it in and see what the fuss is about.   And did I mention that the Centrepointe bar has Labatt’s 50?  I was totally impressed!  Something else to look forward when I return for HOMECHILD in a few weeks.  But in the meantime, HAMLET 2011 is a winner (and Mancini really is bloody terrific in the lead, no fooling), and you should head on down.  Then come to THE LAVENDER RAILROAD, but more on that soon.    Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

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