Stratford Report

This may be the year to take a teenager with you. The young crowd at Hamlet
were whistling and clapping before the lights dimmed, before an actor had
appeared, before a word had been spoken. They knew who was playing Hamlet
(Ben Carlson) and they were prepared. He’s not your usual contemplative,
dithering hero.

Another for the teens: Romeo and Juliet. There’s a daddy with dreadlocks. A
Magical Creeping Crypt. (It must have cost a bomb.) The sword fight
(Romeo/Tybalt) is the best I’ve seen and the play within a play (“the
mousetrap”) is fast, noisy, frightening, breathtaking. Special musical
effects at the end.

If your preference is to hear Shakespeare’s poetry beautifully spoken,
there’s Love’s Labour’s Lost. Oh, those wonderful women, wearing gorgeous
gowns, sitting in bare fields under a high sky – so wise, speaking “words of
wisdom,” and hatching such mischief. Come to think of it, LLL may be the
play for people on this list since it’s about the difficulty of managing a
personal life while hitting the books.

For the poetry again: Simon Callow’s recitation of the sonnets (about 75 of
them) with story and commentary.

And All’s Well That Ends Well. Perfect, a perfect production with a
wonderful Helena (Daniela Vlaskalic). And here’s the puzzle. Helena’s the
most masterful woman in the Shakespeare oeuvre, so intelligent, with all the
gifts (including the political gifts; she knows how to lie; she knows when
to lie), educated in the sciences and in the arcane arts. Beautiful, of
course. Admired, loved. She dominates the action from beginning to end. And
she is completely successful in her endeavours. And yet! Do we – you and I,
watching, fascinated – do we like her? As I write this I hear Allan Bloom
lecturing on Emma Bovary to Politics 101 at the University of Toronto. (I
was a T.A.) He’d say: “Did you like Emma Bovary? Did you like her?”

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