By John Swartz
Driftwood Theatre has hit on something, bring Shakespeare in an even more entertaining way to the masses. Sure we all had some exposure in high school, but raise your hand if you paid attention. Thought so.
The success of a play starts on the page. Writer Jeremy Smith has done an incredible job mashing together three plays – Henry IV Parts 1 and 2, and Henry V – into one script. The thing about Shakespeare is the words, the dialogue, nobody speaks that way anymore so it can be hard to follow at the pace delivered by an actor during a performance.
I have this lingering thought our collective level of discourse has slipped a bit since the time of Shakespeare because I think we have this impression the average person back then was simpler than today, less educated and no playwright in his right mind would write so far above the audience’s ability to follow along if they wanted to be successful. Historical accounts suggest he was popular back then. He was at least popular enough to draw audiences and become relatively rich enough to give writing the next play a crack 38 times after the first one. So maybe those audiences weren’t so backward.
I hardly think any poet or playwright sets out to write something with the thought, 300 or 400 years from now they’ll finally get it. No, one can’t be successful in theater without appealing to all.
But think about it; the flow of the words, the weaving of plots into one story, setting comedy next to tragedy in the same play, the vocabulary used. Quite a few of the words have fallen out of use, so deciding to enjoy Shakespeare sometimes means bringing one’s own interpretation to the experience (even if one has to look things up later to get the full meaning). And yet, we get it, we laugh at the right places, and even if something gets missed in translation to what we know, we can still follow what’s going on.
So Smith’s task, to pick the passages which still tell the story and be easy to follow and entertaining is not a small one. And then the actors (Hume Baugh, Rosalie Trembley, Richard Allen Campbell, Ximena Huizi and Ben Yognathan have to understand how the parts fit together and portray a new seamless arc of the story, which they did very well. Each played two main characters and some minor ones. I think the hardest task was making the jokes make sense, no one ever told a joke out of context and got a laugh.
One of the devices Smith used to skip over the parts not used was musical interlude. Kelsi James wrote all the music and performed throughout the play on guitar. Germaine Konji wrote the lyrics and Trembley sang 90% of it. I found those parts as enjoyable as the script itself and would have been satisfied if they butted all the music together, played that and called it a night.
And Smith injected things not found in the original scripts. For example Falstaff (Baugh) and Campbell (Quickly ) burst into an over the top, mushy rendition of We’ve Got Tonight (by Bob Seeger and covered by Kenny Rogers and Sheena Easton) which took us out of the play, but still was entirely appropriate to illustrate the relationship between the two. Even funnier is the Quickly character is female, but played by a man in this production. That one moment of injection sheds light on their relationship and explains why Quickly put up with Fallstaff’s unscrupulous behaviour to that point.
Smith also decided to shift the focus of the three plays to Prince Hal who would become Henry V and make the play about him. Hal is a character in all three of the original plays, but not who those plays were about.
Many who admire the uses of and quirks of the English language are in awe of how Shakespeare could turn a phrase, and arrange the words. And despite the fine performance of the actors, we have to also be in awe of Smith’s ability to craft this adaptation of the works. It is one thing to think one can do something like that, and another to pull it off.
The other thing about this is it’s outdoors, which allows a multitude of entrances to the stage and a unique atmosphere. The company brings a lot of gear with them, and one things I found exceptional was the sound. The cast wore mics, but they’ve figured out how to wear/use them, and their sound mixer did an excellent job EQ’ing so the words were intelligible from the start. I think it’s the best job of using a sound system for a play I’ve heard yet.
The unfortunate part is this was a one day only performance at the Leacock Museum and you can’t see it here. But, it’s a travelling show and there are performances happening all through August in Ontario. Check out the schedule and maybe you can fit it in if you are also travelling. It will be worth your time.
I now know why I was out of sorts last weekend and didn’t even realize it was a holiday. The Rotary Lions Funfest didn’t happen this year. I had in mind this coming weekend was the holiday because I had in sight the Waterfront Festival is happening at the Port of Orillia and in Centennial Park.
It opens at noon Friday and the highlight of the day is the Dock Diving Dog Contest at 5 p.m. It happens again on Saturday and Sunday at 11 a.m. You can still probably enter your dog and the details are here. Paul Cafcae will be making music from 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday.
Sunday the annual Cardboard Boat Race happens at noon. This race to the bottom usually draws hundreds of spectators and Leacock could have had a field day crafting a story about it. It’s followed at 2 p.m. with a paddleboard race.
All The Punks Are In Coldwater This Weekend
The annual Coldwater Steampunk Festival happens tonight and tomorrow in suburban Fesserton. In the before times when they held the last festival I had to park there.
There’s a great slate of activities and performances happening, some contests you can enter and you’ll generally have a great time. See all the details online.
- Liz Schamehorn update. She’s recovering well at Soldiers’ now. She has started physiotherapy and will be taken back to Sunnybrook next week to have the pins holding her together removed. You can send a message to her on Facebook, or email email@example.com
- We’re in the final week of the Opera House’s production of Driving Miss Daisy If you haven’t seen it, you’ll find this cast stands on it’s own compared to more famous portrayals. See my review here. You can see it until August 12 and tickets are available online.
- The City of Orillia and the Orillia District Arts Council’s neighbourhood arts program continues August 10 at Homewood Park, August 17 at Walter Henry Park and August 24 at Victoria Park. Participation is free and you can find more details online. And the City’s Music in the Park on Sunday’s at 6:30 p.m. at the Aqua Theatre happens again with the Skyliners on August 14 and the Simcoe County Band August 28. Don’t miss the grand re-opening of the Aqua Theatre August 9 at 6:30 p.m. The Orillia Big Band will be playing, there’ll be some speeches, and when the sun goes down out you can watch That Night in Toronto, Tragically Hip’s concert video.
- Did you watch Lance Anderson’s band performing for the Toronto Blues Society’s Blues Summit? He had Gene Hardy on sax, Roger Williams on bass, Art Avalos on percussion and Mike Sloski on drums, calling it NOLA Parish (New Orleans, Louisiana). You can watch it on the TBS Youtube page. The rest of the performances – 30 of them – will be uploaded daily through to Sept. 2.
- Two out three ain’t bad. Mark Critch and Rick Mercer did make the cut from my prediction of which authors would be shortlisted for the Stephen Leacock Medal of Humour. Joining them is Dawn Dumont for her book, The Prairie Chicken Dance Tour. There is sad news attached to this, Dumont and her son have been missing since July 22. Her pickup truck was found July 25 at Chief Whitecap Park which is south of Saskatoon. Some of Dumont’s personal items were found nearby, but there was no trace of her or her child. Tickets for the September 17 award dinner (the 2020 and 2021 shortlist authors will also be there) and for the Meet the Authors and Student Showcase event the previous evening are available online.
- OMAH and Sustainable Orillia have organized an historical walking tour of the waterfront for August 13. There are four departure times (10 and 11 a.m., 1 and 2 p.m.) from the Sustainable Orillia booth at the legion. Register here. OMAH also has new exhibits – Conversations: 150th Anniversary of the Ontario Society of Artists, The History Of Orillia In 50 Artefacts and Summer On The Lake. The Reflections of Ourselves exhibit of Maple Leaves constructed by artists from across the country is still up too… Peter Street Fine Arts has photography by Mike Bailey featured this month… Hibernation Art has Nicole Rulff’s art featured in August and she’ll be at the gallery August 6 from noon to 3 p.m. … if you want to be part of the Friday night street shenanigans in the Arts District email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how to get space.
- I spent a fantastic Sunday afternoon at Couchiching Craft Brewing listening to Will Davis and Chris Robinson play some jazz; they do this really neat mashup of Take 5 and Everything’s Alright from Jesus Christ Superstar; I’ve herd them do it before and you’ve got to go and hear it for yourself this Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m.; Will Dunlop hosts Vinyl Night on Thursdays; Matt Allen is in August 11 and Cruisin’ plays August 13… Jamie Drake, along with Jakob Pearce and Alex Golovchenko host a new jam at the Grape and Olive Thursday nights starting at 6 p.m. … Jamie is also playing at the ANAF Club August 6 and Fionn MacCool’s August 12… Quayle’s Brewery has Jessica Sevier playing Friday at 5:30 p.m. and Jakob Pearce Sunday at 3:30 p.m.; Steph Dunn is in August 12 … the Kensington has an open mic night hosted by Tim Kehoe on Tuesdays from 8 to 11 p.m. … the Hog N’ Penny has trivia night every Thursday… Sydney Riley plays the Orillia Farmers’ Market Saturday…. Friday night’s See You On The Patio has Mike Martyn & Alex Russo, Ian Chaplin, Dray Tony playing music.
(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia and Images Supplied) Main: Richard Alan Campbell, Hume Baugh and Kelsi James in King Henry Five (Photo by Dahlia Katz)