The following reports were sent to us by Oberon founder and Shakespeare Oxford Society board member Richard Joyrich. Thanks, Richard!
WEDNESDAY August 1, 2007
This is your Stratford, Ontario correspondent reporting in from my scouting mission in advance of our August 25th planned Oberon Invasion (well, there's only 5 people yet, but that can change).
I have already seen two of the four Oxford (Shakespeare) plays on tap here, Comedy of Errors and King Lear. Comedy of Errors was fun, but I think that director Richard Monette went over the top in adding "funny bits". Once or twice for a gag is OK, but not four or five times. King Lear, directed by and starring Brian Bedford (as Lear) was very good, but seemed to lack some of the emotional appeal and "grandeur" of the 2002 production with Christopher Plummer. I still recommend it highly though.
I will be seeing Merchant tomorrow and Othello on Saturday. I'll report on them after I see them.
Now as to future Oberon projects:
We need to get going on our Hamlet Project. This is in part due to the fact that I have just learned that the 2008 Stratford Festival Season will include this play. Actually, in a return to its "roots" the Festival is going to be doing five (count 'em, five) Shakespeare plays (they are also going to restore the official name of Stratford Shakespeare Festival). The other four plays planned for 2008 are Romeo and Juliet, Taming of the Shrew, All's Well that Ends Well, and Loves Labours Lost.
I think we should get on to all of these plays soon. They all have good Oxfordian connections, especially All's Well and LLL (and I guess Hamlet also). I would like to forward to Jack Scofield (writer of the Prologues book and leader of a daily discussion group here in Stratford) any Oxfordian material we can come up with before he starts writing his book for next season (which he will do before February). I come to his discussion group whenever I am in town here and I think he is becoming more and more open to our point of view. Let's talk about this at our next Oberon meeting (which I think is August 16, right Tom?)
Well, that's it for now. Keep those cards and letters coming.
THURSDAY August 2, 2007
Another day finished and two more plays under my belt. Today I saw the musical Oklahoma which was very enjoyable and The Merchant of Venice which I have to say was disappointing (given what the Stratford Festival should be capable of).
I can go into more details at our next Oberon meeting, but in short I found that Graham Greene didn't really work for me as Shylock and that the director's choice of costumes, set design and music were a little jarring. I guess the director, Richard Rose, wanted to mirror the sense of ambivalence he finds in the Venetian society of the play (according to the video interview with him on the Stratford website) and so chose to do it in a "no period" setting with various contrasting elements, but it seemed to me to be distracting. Maybe I just didn't "get it".
Even though I didn't really like this production (in fact thinking it was one of the worst I've seen), I am still very happy to see it again with the four other intrepid souls who have already decided to brave the perils of crossing the border, driving in Tom Hunter's car (actually very nice), and having to stop at Tim Hortons because I want to share the experience (however painful it is) with others and maybe someone else can explain to me what the director was smoking when he conceived the production.
Despite having lambasted the production, I still invite any other Oberoners who want to come with us to do so. I can still get tickets for it (Saturday, August 25th at 2 PM) so let me know if you need one. I'm sorry, but the four who already have tickets still have to go since I have already paid for the tickets.
There are other options, perhaps, for the four of you who have already committed to coming to Stratford if you are not sure enough of your masochistic tendencies to put up with this travesty of theater (well, maybe I'm going too far now). We could instead decide to come to Stratford on the Friday (Aug 24) for the 2 PM production of King Lear (very good, but maybe not as good as the 2002 version with Christopher Plummer) or the Friday 8 PM production of Othello (I won't see this until this Saturday so I don't know how it will be yet, but it probably won't be as bad as the Merchant was). I will report on Othello after I see it. (Yes, we could also see Comedy of Errors at 8 PM on August 24 or 2 PM on Sunday August 26, but it really was a little too stupid as I reported in my last E-mail)
Let's think about this some more, but don't worry. Whatever we decide to do will result in everyone having a good time (even if it is only the fun of a discussion on what the director SHOULD have done)
PS: I hope you realize that I am being a little tongue in cheek when I describe the production of Merchant I saw as a travesty. It's not really so bad, but it was a disappointment for me.
FRIDAY August 3, 2007
First of all, I will apologize if I scared my four future Stratford co-voyagers by remarks about the production of Merchant that I saw and will soon be "inflicted" on them. It is only a little bit terrible.
I have softened my opinion on the production after talking to other people at Jack Scofield's discussion session this morning and also talking to Sue Sybersma.
For this reason, I retract my suggestions in my last E-mail that we try to see something else. I now find that I would like to hear the opinions of Tom, Rosey, Linda, and Sue M after they see the production. I am even willing to see the thing again (as long as I have others with me to share the pain).
This afternoon I saw a great production of An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde (it was even better than the recent movie with Rupert Everett and Cate Blanchett) and tonight I will see another musical.
I will write again with my thoughts on Othello after I see it tomorrow.
SATURDAY August 4, 2007
OK, here is my last report from Stratford since I will be returning to Michigan tomorrow morning, having seen ten plays.
The best production of a Shakespeare play, in my opinion, was the Othello I saw this afternoon. Jonathan Goad was exceptional as Iago, and the staging at the Tom Patterson theater was first-rate. I thought that Philip Akin (in his Stratford debut) could have been a little stronger as Othello, but he was still very good and the supporting cast was also very fine. Maybe I can convince those of you who are coming on August 25 for Merchant to "stick around" for the 8 PM Othello that day (of course we would have to get tickets).
As I stated in earlier E-mails, King Lear was very good, but still seemed to lack "something". I'd put it second best this year (for the Shakespeare productions). Comedy of Errors was fun, but way too silly and "over the top" and Merchant still holds last place for me (although my opinion of it since talking with others about it has risen from "Oh no, you mean I have to see this thing again?!" to "OK, maybe I should give it another chance.")
As far as most fun or enjoyable Stratford productions this year, I'd have to go with the musical "My One and Only" (with great Gershwin songs and amazing tap dancing) and the incredible solo tour-de-force performance by Lucy Peacock in "The Blonde, the Brunette and the Vengeful Redhead" (this production also wins the prize for the longest title) by Robert Hewett.
I also enjoyed highly going to the various Meet the Festival, Talking Theater and Table Talk sessions as well as Jack Scofield's PROLOGUES talks. If we can leave early enough on the 25th we should try to catch Jack's talk on Merchant at 11 AM (it will cost everyone $10 however).
OK enough for now. I have to save some further observations and gossip for our next Oberon meeting.