Posts Tagged ‘katie ryerson’

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)

A Merry Time in Windsor

In Company of Fools, Theatre on July 23, 2013 at 4:18 pm

Well, it took me just over three weeks but I finally made it.  In my defense, I’m often pretty slow out of the gate when it comes to seeing Ottawa’s touring park shows…They’re just about the only game in town for two solid months, and I can’t resist the subconscious urge to stretch them out as much as I can.  But I DID try and see this one a couple weeks ago, I swear!  All I can say is Glabar Park is NOT where google maps told me it was (although apparently I was close).

But fortunately, even a dim stooge like myself can find Strathcona Park on a clear day, ad the weather was poifect this Monday for a trip down Laurier to where A Company of Fools were celebrating the second anniversary of their tenth anniversary of summer Shakespeare shows with their latest, THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR.  Directed by the ever wonderful Catriona Leger and featuring Billy Shakes’ most memorable rogue sir John Falstaff at his bawdy best, this underseen bit of bard was prime fodder for the Fools treatment.  Thee show features a giddily talented cast of familiar faces like Simon Bradshaw, Melanie Karin Brown, Katie Ryerson, John Doucet and Geoff McBride, along with first-time fool Matthew John Lundvall, subbing in as Falstaff himself for the originally-cast Chris Ralph, who has gone off to open a new theatre school or some such.

Our tale finds randy sir John newly arrived in Windsor, and already robbing people blind and trying to seduce their wives.  Specifically, mistresses Page and Ford (Melanie Karin-Brown and Katie Ryerson), who immediately see through his attempts and plot some serious revenge.  The only hitch is Ford’s jealous husband (John Doucet), who adopts a disguise to infiltrate Falstaff’s inner circle and glean the truth, although he somehow manages to get it wrong more often than not.  Meanwhile, the Pages’ young daughter Anne (Katie Ryerson again) is being promised to two highly unsuitable suitors, dull Slender (Melanie again) and fire-tempered Doctor Caius (Simon Bradshaw), while her true love Fenton (Doucet again, stealing the show in a Keanu Reeves impression that HAS to be seen) is shut out.  Amidst this, duels are nearly fought (between Caius and nervous Parson Evans, aka Geoff McBride), messages are passed between Falstaff and the scheming wives via robust Ms. Quickly (McBride again), fairies are summoned, beatings are given and merry is indeed had by all.

Mistress Page (Katie Ryerson) gets some unwanted attention from Falstaff (Matthew John Lundvall).  Pic by Andrew Alexander.

Mistress Ford (Katie Ryerson) gets some unwanted attention from Falstaff (Matthew John Lundvall). Pic by Andrew Alexander.

It almost feel redundant to write up a Fools park show, as the gang has it down to a pretty awesome science (or magic, more like) by now.  Plenty of amazing and hilarious character work from the Foolish entourage to entertain even the most jaded audience…I dearly loved Melanie Karin Brown’s dull-witted Slender, and Katie Ryerson’s jittery old Justice Shallow, among their other great moments.  Simon Bradshaw continues to be absolute comic gold on any stage…his Doctor Caius was a serious highlight, and I use ‘serious’ in the loosest sense here.Geoff McBride alternates nicely between upright Evans and borderline floozy Quickly.  And Matthew Lundvall makes a memorable Falstaff, cowardly and boastful often in the same breath.  All of this talent under the direction of Miz Leger is almost too good to be true, but here we are.  There are tons of high points in this absolute sure-fire crowd pleaser of a show, and it’s easy to see why the Fools are enjoying the longevity they so richly deserve.  Ottawa is lucky to have this gang, and the next time they’re in your neighbourhood, for Heaven’s sake stop on by.  Check their website for parks and dates, you still have plenty of time left to get in on the fun.  But don’t dawdle, because you might want to see it a second time.  It’s worth it.  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

Rowan, King of Fools

In Company of Fools, Theatre on January 6, 2013 at 10:59 am

New Year!  And that means new seasons to announce, and that means new sovereigns to crown (yes it does, don’t argue), and that definitely means it’s time for the Company of Fools annual TWELFTH NIGHT CELEBRATION fundraiser show at the NAC 4th Stage.  This is my third year attending, and it was a blast the first two times.  If anything, it was even Blastier this year.  Here’s how it went down…

I actually bought my ticket in advance this year, instead of my previously established policy of just sort of stumbling upon one at the last minute (nice trick, but I’m no Nancy Kenny and I didn’t want to push my luck about getting in to sold-out events).  Spent the day doing some much needed laundry, stuffing myself with a little homemade bolognese, then heading out to the show, where the head Fools (Scott Florence and AL Connors) would be mastering the ceremony, and announcing the Fools’ upcoming season for 2013.  I spent a little frantic time hunting around for decent seat for my lonesome self before I was dutifully rescued by the lovely Kelly Rigole (soon to become the first actor to appear in TWO separate shows at the UNDERCURRENTS festival, FYI) to the stageside table she’d secured, along with supahstar Dave Benedict Brown of 411 Dramaturgy (soon to knock Ottawa out yet again with HIP HOP SHAKESPEARE, also at Undercurrents).  I was mightily thankful for the accommodations, as we listened to the pre-show musical stylings of Mi Casa Theatre’s Nick DiGaetano on the gee-tar.  Very nice, as always.

The show proper began as Scott and AL  took to the stage to a) encourage us to buy AS MANY RAFFLE TICKETS AS POSSIBLE, and b) introduce the spiffy cast who would take the stage a moment later to perform a not-even-a-little-bit rehearsed staged reading of TWELFTH NIGHT.  Alongside themselves, they were joined by Geoff McBride, Catriona Leger, Margo MacDonald, Chris Ralph, Simon Bradshaw, Melanie Karin and Richard Gelinas, a seriously talent-heavy who’s who of Ottawa Theatre that would be hard-pressed NOT to entertain an audience.  The show was a hit as expected…major props to Geoff McBride for managing so much scene-stealing on  a stage that packed with incredible performers.  Also, fine legwork from Gelinas.  Many laffs were had, and the audience was primed and ready for the second half and the announcement of the Fools’ 24th season.


First off, of course, is the Fools annual SWEETS AND SONNETS DELIVERY, wherein you can hire your very own Fool to deliver a Shakespeare sonnet to your loved one, in person, on Valentine’s Day (OR Mother’s Day this year!).  Tell your sweetheart how much they mean to you by embarrassing them at their place of work!  To accompany this announcement, it was time for the annual crowning of the new King or Queen of Fools!  With last years departing Queen in attendance, the torch was passed to Rowan, who proved a generous monarch indeed when he appointed his Mother (Fools alum Virginia West, last seen inn HENRY V) to receive an onstage sonnet from AL Connors himself.  Hail Rowan, wisely may he rule!

Next up was announcement of the OTTAWA THEATRE CHALLENGE in honour of World Theatre Day on March 27.  We were treated to a performance of last years winning piece by Melanie Karin, which I’ll just call LIP SMACKERS in lieu of actually knowing the title.  Good stuff!  The multi-company battle (with 48 hour prep time to keep things interesting) will happen again this year at the 4th Stage, for the coveted Rubber Chicken Award!

The next proclamation was an exciting one indeed, a the Fools make their first venture into non-Shakespearean territory.  From May 7th to 25th, Ottawa will be witness to Nassim Soleimanpour’s hit show WHITE RABBIT RED RABBIT at Arts Court library.  A play like no other from the sounds of it, the show will feature a different lead actor EVERY NIGHT, for a total of 18 performers over the run…and none of them get to see the script until the moment they get on stage!!  I’m so stoked for this  I can’t tell ya…apparently the show killed at Summerworks and Edinburgh Fringe, and I’m already making plans to see it at LEAST twice.  And the ticket price?  Well, you might be delighted to hear that the Fools, fools that they are, have made the official decision to take their pass-the-hat, pay-what-you-can pricing model from their outdoor shows, and apply it to their INDOOR shows as well.  So yeah, no excuses for missing this one, Ottawa.

And the big show of the year, the touring TORCHLIGHT SHAKESPEARE park show that will be celebrating its tenth (give or take) year this year?  The Fools have tapped directorial juggernaut Catriona Leger, who will take the reins of THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR from July 3rd to August 17th at parks across the region.  A short excerpt from Billy Shakes’ goofy comedy was performed to our giddy amusement, and Catriona’s excitement about the show was pretty infectious.  Oh, and opening day, July 3rd?  That will also, by proclamation of the Mayor, be pronounced officially as COMPANY OF FOOLS DAY in Ottawa.  Yeah, I think our little Fools are starting to make people notice them.  Good news.

An Andrew Alexander pic of last year's amazing Torchlight Shakespeare show, HENRY V.

An Andrew Alexander pic of last year’s amazing Torchlight Shakespeare show, HENRY V.

But wait, there’s more!!  A second Shakespeare joint (call it TORCHLIGHT TOO) will follow WIVES up in September, this one directed by the Queen herself, Margo MacDonald.  Her show, appearing indoors at three different theatres in town, is HAL AND FALSTAFF, an adaptation featuring all the good Falstaff bits from HENRY IV I & II, and a little bit of HENRY V.  I think it’ll probably be along the lines of Orson Welles’ classic CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT…but probably with more foam swords.  Both shows will star the Fools’ new acting company:  Chris Ralph (who will play Falstaff in both shows, too), Simon Bradshaw, John Doucet, Melanie Karin, Geoff McBride, and Katie Ryerson.  A sweeter lineup you’d have to be a fool to hope for.

I’d call the night a great success…fun was had, great shows were announced, the Company reached their fundraising goal and then some, and I even won some swag in the raffle!  This swag might be turned into contest-fodder on this blog in the next week or so, so stay tuned!  And start planning your summer now, gang…it’s a great year to be a Fool in Ottawa.  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor

Her Majesty King Henry the Fifth

In Company of Fools, Theatre on July 18, 2012 at 2:12 am

July in Ottawa throws me off, it really does.  Fringe is over, and all the regular theatre seasons are ALSO being over, and it seems like it’s just the park shows left (it’s totally not, but it just SEEMS like that for a while).  So my instinct is to kind of stretch them out a little, make them last…or at least, that’s my excuse for always being so damned late in reviewing the park shows.  I’m ALL about the excuses.

But when Queen Margo Mac herself calls you out and asks you when you’re coming to see her show, it’s time to put the excuses on the shelf,  check the schedule, and get your butt to the park for some torchlight Shakespeare!  Those merry pranksters A Company of Fools are back touring parks in the Ottawa area, and this year they’ve set their sights upon HENRY V, under the direction of good guy Geoff McBride.  Along with Margo MacDonald, the cast includes Virginia West, Kelly Rigole, Simon Bradshaw and Katie Ryerson.  And if that sounds like an awful lot of girl names for a Shakespeare play, you’re right…the Fools have turned the tables and have the gals playing nearly all the roles in this adaptation.  And If you know anything about anything, you were as excited as I was to hear that Margo MacDonald was going to be playing Henry the Fifth.


The other players all tackle multiple roles throughout this, easily one of the most entertaining times at the theatre (outside or not) you’ll have this year.  I’d never caught Virginia West onstage before, but she made great hay of roles like loyal Fluellen, and decrepit old Erpingham.   Kelly Rigole, always a treat, leapt and scowled with gusto as ultraviolent Pistol, and crusty miner MacMorris.  Katie Ryerson is painfully funny as the treacherous Dauphin, boasting of her horse and armour with almost superhuman preening.  And Simon Bradshaw serves as our chorus/narrator, as well a very memorable French herald and , even more memorably, the princess Katherine.  The ‘seduction’ scene towards the end of Henry V is one of my fav’rit Shakespeare scenes, mostly because it’s SO awkward, halting, and human.  And trust me, folks…you have NOT seen this scene until you’ve seen it between Margo Mac and Simon Bradshaw in drag.

The story itself is one of war, and valour, and all that jazz…King Henry is out to nab himself some France, and that’s all there is to it.  There’re some great speeches in HV, and Margo does them bloody proud (they’re also the only places I was worried that the Fools might start losing the little ones in the audience, but even they seemed rapt with attention…then again, who can resist the St.Crispin’s day speech??).  Director McBride and the gang makes use of every trick in the book to bring their tale to vigorously engaging life, including but not limited to a seemingly magic trunk (courtesy of John Doucet), puppets, a few action figures, and all the tennis balls you could ever hope for in live theatre.  It was a pretty damn wonderful time out in the park, and the more I think about it, the more I realize I’m pretty much gonna have to go again.  And the next time, I’m bringing my nieces.  No matter who you have to bring, you should check it out too.  It plays at parks all over well into August, so put your excuses on the shelf with mine, okay?   Get your Fool on already.  Peace, love and soul, Ottawa,

The Visitor

Salamander’s Othello (better late than never..?)

In Theatre on August 4, 2011 at 7:31 pm

I’ve said before on these silly pages, that I really don’t care for writing reviews of shows once they’ve closed because, well, it’s kind of useless then, now isn’t it?  And i feel useless enough in my everyday goings-on, thanks very kindly.  But…still.  I really haven’t been bloggin’ very much of late, and I DID just recently see a dandy show that I’d been meaning to for ages now, and I’d feel plum awful if I didn’t say a few words about it.  Heck, maybe it’ll bring someone some joy, yes?  There’s a nice thought.  And since these folks brought ME some much needed joy on said night, it’s the least I can do to try.

The play in question has actually been running pretty much non-stop since the Ottawa Fringe Festival back in mid-June, in venues varying from an outdoor amphitheatre, various city parks, the Rideau street underpass, and finally, the NAC 4th stage (which is where I caught it on its last day).  That play is OTHELLO, from the hyperactive theatre kids at Salamander Shakespeare.  I’d shamefully put off seeing their latest production for ages, and almost made the mistake of skipping it entirely (it turns out I actually have to save up some money for a trip I’m taking in a few weeks…who knew travelling cost?), but happily talked myself into heading out.

A chance meeting outside with some awesome theatre-folk seemed like a good omen for the evening and we headed on in to grab seats and watch some good old fashioned Shakespeare.  Directed by Eleanor Crowder, this production had a bit of a rolling lead system going on, with the role of Othello changing between Zach Raynor and Pruf Rock, and Grace Gordon and Katie Ryerson taking turns as Desdemona.  For closing night, Pruf and Katie played the doomed couple.  I was pleased to get Pruf Rock, as I was intrigued with the choice of a slam poet like himself as the lead in one of the bard’s most infamous tragedies.  Happy to say it was a wise choice, as PR is a masterful orator who easily commands attention with his words.  Okay, his acting chops are a touch shaky at times, but he brings such an interesting and exciting vibe to the production it’s hardly a concern.  Now I gotta catch me some of his slammin’!

Grace Gordon does wonderfully as Desdemona, very believably devastated by the sudden turn in her beloved husband’s demeanor.  And the reason for that turn, of course, is what may be Shakespeare’s greatest villain of all: Iago.  A practiced liar and master manipulator who destroys lives just for the sake of being an utter asshole, and who has his victims thanking him for his treachery right up until the final twisting of the blade, Iago is a dream role for ANY actor.  Here it is played by Guy Buller, who just eats it up.   With a hateful scowl lurking just aside of every shit-eating grin, Guy nails the performance, seething with palpable hate for pretty much everyone he encounters.  It’s a schadenfreudian delight to watch.

Other performances are just as engaging…Tim Oberholzer has some great comedic moments as fallen hero Cassio, likewise Katie Ryerson stealing scenes as loud and lusty Bianca.  Anna Lindgren shines as Iago’s put-upon wife Aemilia, and Nick Surges gives great laughs as dull-witted Roderigo, another of Iago’s would-be patsies.  It’s a great ensemble, as is to be expected of Salamander.  Lovely costumes, performances, and even the swordfights are pretty damn cool.  They deliver the goods.

I really am sorry I didn’t see this early enough in the run to be of some use…maybe next year, when they come back with AS YOU LIKE IT for their ’12 season, I’ll get off my butt and catch it in the open air like I oughtta.  Not that I mind the 4th stage any…the bar IS a nice touch.

Awright, NOW I’m starting to remember why I have this blog…good news.  I’ll be back hopefully sooner than later with some blather on upcoming seasons, and the best resurrection story of the year.  Until then, keep on filling the cheap seats, Ottawa.  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)