visitorium

Never Mind the Bollocks, here’s the Shakespeare

In Company of Fools, Theatre on September 5, 2013 at 8:55 pm

So, HAL AND FALSTAFF.  Let’s get right to it this time, hey, because I’m at home, stir crazy as all get-out, and just started dancing by myself to FREAKY STYLEY for the first time in about a dozen years.  I’m pumped, folks, and ready to make some theatrical writeup magick!

Now, maybe even old-school Red Hot Chili Peppers isn’t completely apropos background music for this post, as the production from A Company of Fools, under the loving guidance of Queen Margo MacDonald adapting and directing, is a little more late 70’s punk in its tone, and I couldn’t love it more for it. Set in a dingy, cluttered attic, our gang of six (Katie Ryerson, Matthew John Lundvall, Simon Bradshaw, Geoff McBride, John Doucet and Melanie Karin Brown) filter in, decked out in glorious punk fashion and sprawling about the set like they honestly couldn’t care less that any of us are even there.  Until McBride finds the crown, and then our rabble takes it upon themselves to begin telling the tale of Henry (or Hal, or Harry, or whatever Shakespeare felt like calling him that minute…played by a splendidly wigged Katie Ryerson) and his youthful collaboration with fiction’s greatest rogue, Falstaff (Lundvall, reprising his role from MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR, now with about 200 lbs of extra fat suit for good measure).  The other players take turns filling out the sprawling cast of characters that make up this tale, culled from several of Billy Shakes’ historical plays, from Richard II to Henry V.  Telling this story is no mean feat, so it isn’t surprising that Margo is what, the first person since Orson Welles to attempt it?

Okay, maybe not, but as long as I’m on the subject RELEASE THIS ON  DVD ALREADY!!!

Okay, maybe not, but as long as I’m on the subject  RELEASE THIS ON DVD ALREADY!!!

The punk conceit works like a fucking charm in this, the sprawling tale of Henry’s path from rebellious layabout to monarch.  Falstaff, naturally, is far more constant that wee Hal, and remains a cowardly good-for-nothing right to the end, and we love him for it.  The moments of incredible storytelling in this show are too numerous to describe, and it coalesces into a whole that is one of the most satisfying pieces of Shakespeare you’ll ever be lucky enough to see.  Geoff McBride’s King Henry IV is absolutely out-fucking-standing, and I almost stood up and applauded after one of his final speeches.  Simon Bradshaw continues to amaze as one of the most versatile actors around, and getting some of the biggest laughs in the show as a lisping clergyman.  Melanie Karin Brown makes for a tremendously fun Scottish King AND courtesan both, while John Doucet scores some tough guy points as Hal’s nemesis, the brash prince Henry Percy.  Casting Katie Ryerson as Prince Hal was a bit of genius indeed, and she makes a lean and unpredictable heir apparent, playing marvellously against the wunnerful Matthew John Lundvall, an even better Falstaff here than in WINDSOR.  The childish joy of the character, all the disappointment and the heartbreak awaiting…it’s all there, and it’s all good.

Lundvall and Ryerson as Falstaff and Hal, courtesy of Justin van Leeuwen.

Lundvall and Ryerson as Falstaff and Hal, courtesy of Justin van Leeuwen.

Major truckloads of love to Vanesa Imeson, who handled the filthy/gorgeous costumes and set for this one, as well as Jess Preece for some clearly supernatural work assembling those killer props.  This is a darker direction for the Fools (and indoor to boot), and I’m so very glad they went there.  My only wish for this production is that it could have actually been a little MORE punk…I kept waiting for some of the characters to strut onstage sporting a Sid Vicious or Joey Ramone accent, but that might just be my roots showing.  At any rate, go see this show or you’re dumb as a sack of hammers, is what I’m saying.  It plays the rest of this week at the Gladstone , then hits Shenkman and Centrepointe for a week apiece. Get going, or don’t show your face around here again, get me?  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

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