Me and My Girl

This musical got great reviews, had a great cast and the audience were having a great time. I fell asleep in the first act and went home at the intermission so I could rest in comfort.

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Androcles and the Lion

Theatre always requires the willing suspension of disbelief.  This production of Shaw’s diatribe on religion also requires a willing suspension of stuffy inhibitions. If you are not ready to laugh at over the top tom foolery, this is not the play for you. Helpful hint: if you don’t enjoy pantos, you won’t like this production.

Director Tim Carroll wants the audience involved in the play. So the Lion is recruited from the audience (thank you, Mina, for your enthusiastic role playing) and other members of the audience are given balls, to be used at will to interrupt the plot so cast members can tell personal stories or recite from the prologue. You also get instructions on when to cheer and jeer as part of the audience at the colloseum.

It all adds up to a fun afternoon, where you can ignore Shaw’s preachy lecture and just enjoy the gags. With a forty page play that has a hundred page prologue and a twenty page epilogue, how else can you stretch it out to fill the whole afternoon?

The cast seemed to be having lots of fun, which was a key to making the whole thing work.

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Saint Joan

We started the evening wondering if this production could equal the one we saw on NTL in The spring. We left the theatre agreeing that it was even better. The whole thing was like a perfect gem. The stage design and lighting were spectacular, but never overwhelmed the actors or the action.

The actors were wonderful with Sara Topham delivering a virtuoso performance as Joan. She was funny, earnest, strong, naive, charming, flirtatious and holy. Her journey as Joan was entirely believable. The men had no choice but to follow.

The men were also very strong. Tom McCamus as Warwick, Jim Mezon as The Inquisitor, Gray Powell as Dunois, Benedict Campbell as the Archbishop of Rheims, Allan Louis as Robert de Baudricourt, Wade Bogert O’Brien as the Dauphin …. the list goes on.

This is one of Shaw’s best plays and director Tim Carroll did a masterful job of presenting it.

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The Madness of King George

Tom McCamus gives a wonderful performance as the mad king, inspiring laughs and pity from beginning to end. You feel sorry for him as he is dressed in the many layers of ceremonial clothing, literally taking on the burden of state. You laugh when he refers to his wife (Chick Reid) as Mrs King and she calls him Mr King. You laugh at his mad antics and pity him as they get more severe and less controllable. You almost cry when the medical treatments turn into torture. And you laugh again when he reads King Lear with the Chancellor (Marci T. House) and Dr Willis (Patrick McManus) admits that he did not know what the play was about.

The cast were kept very busy changing parts and changing wigs as most played several roles. Jim Mezon was Fox  and Dr Baker, Andre Sills was Pitt and Dr Warren. Marci T. House had three roles, Thurlow, Dr Pepys and a footman.

The staging was complex to the point of needing a movement director. Two levels of seating on each side of the stage reduced the available space. House lighting remained on throughout the action, dimming only to signal the end of the act. This may reflect original practice, but it makes it harder to focus.

Overall, I thought it was a great production, with the usual very strong cast.

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Fantastic staging, with beautiful sets, great use of visual projections and a solid cast could not quite overcome the fact that the play is too long.  Either it needs editing, or the director needs to speed it up. I actually drifted off a couple of times in the second act, just when things were coming to a climax. If we had left at the intermission, we would have had enough immersion into the scene. And as we all know how it ends….

i must mention Graeme Somerville’s performance as Renfield, the mad acolyte of Dracula. He gave a brilliant performance in and out of his gilded cage. Allan Louis was a suave and threatening Dracula, but did not get the dramatic entrances I remember from a previous production. This limited his impact. Note that I may have missed an entrance in the second act when I was asleep.

Solid performances by Marla McLean as Mina Westerman, Charissa Richards as Lucy Westerman, Natasha Mumba as Florrie, Wade Bogert O’Brien as Drinkwater, Ben Sanders as Jonathan Harker, Martin Happer as Dr Harker and Steven Sutcliffe as      Van Helsing, were supported by a fantastic cast vampire brides.

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Dancing at Laughnasa

Sometimes the best part of a play is just watching great actors become someone else for a while. The script becomes almost irrelevant, as the people are so real it is hard to remember that there are actors involved. This was my experience of Dancing at Laughnasa.

The amazing cast (Serena Parmar, Tara Rosling, Claire Julien, Diana Donnelly, Fiona Byrne as the mother and aunts, with Patrick Galligan as Michael, Peter Millard as Father Jack and Kristopher Bowman as Gerry) kept us interested, even though the play is a memoir, with not much plot.  But the people were so alive!

I am not sure I would see this play again as I find it hard to believe another cast of this talent could be assembled.

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The Madwoman of Chaillot

I was interested in seeing this play, as it is a name that comes up, but the opportunity to see it has never come up.

Now that I have seen it, I feel no need to repeat the experience. I enjoyed it for the performances and the production, but thought the play was silly. It was worth seeing Seana McKenna  as the Madwoman of Chaillot and Scott Wentworth as the Ragman. And Donna Feore proved she can handle the Paterson stage as well as the Festival.

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