The Falstaff Project

By Errol Durbach

Theatre at UBC
Director: John Wright Costume Design: Marti Wright Set and Lighting Design: Robert Gardiner Technical Director: Ian Pratt Fight Choreographer: Nicholas Harrison Sound and Video Design: Amos Hertzman

Venue:Frederic Wood Theatre
Dates: 14-23 November 2002

Reviewer: Jane Penistan

For the first time, all three sections of The Theatre, Film, and Creative Writing Department of UBC are represented on the stage of the Frederic Wood Theatre in one production. This is in the premiere of The Falstaff Project, brilliantly written and adapted by Errol Durbach, presented with film strip projections on the large screen backdrop, performed by a company of professional and student actors, all admirably directed by John Wright.

Errol Durbach's script is a wonderful amalgamation of Shakespeare text, from Henry IV Parts 1 and 2, and some lines from other plays as well as sparkling, new, invented and inventive dialogue from the twenty-first century. Add to this the appearance on stage of Queen Elizabeth II and a corgi, Falstaff and his motley crew, Henry IV and Prince Hal, with princes, noblemen, ambassadors, countrymen and citizens of London all in modern dress.

The backdrop large screen projections present anything from Cheapside and other parts of London in the Tudor period, to the English countryside, the interior or exterior of a castle or an inn and a series of newscasts, featuring large scale news broadcasters commenting on and introducing scenes and battles, together with clips from newsreels.

The large cast moves through the multitude of short scenes at breakneck speed, some actors playing several roles. Adrian McMorran as Hal is a dissolute youth who grows up to be king of England, but he never quite achieves the dignity of kingship or the charisma of Shakespeare's Henry V. Bardolph and Poins (Matthew Theissen and Mike Griffin) are his youthful friends and Falstaff's companions. Poins' violin solo after the death of Falstaff is one of the evening's highlights. Shallow (Andrej Marko) and The Lord Chief Justice (Ryan Egan) are nicely contrasted members of the legal profession.

Falstaff, as presented by Stephen E. Miller, lacks the spirit, humour, and enjoyment in outwitting others expected from this character. Bullying reprobate though he is, he must have a certain attraction to make him a leading figure and inspire affection in others. This is lacking here.

Of the women, Laurie Brazzill gives a well-acted caricature of the Queen, while Lianne Saykora and Jessica Watson are believable as Mistress Quickly and Doll Tearsheet.

This is a very enjoyable collage of Shakespeare's lines and modern attitudes to the philosophy he promulgates. Once again John Wright and Errol Durbach have cooperated to deliver a new, exciting adaptation with great flare. UBC's Theatre, Film, and Creative Writing Departments should be justly proud of this outstanding presentation. An added bonus to the audience is a copy of the helpful, instructive, and beautifully presented Companion Guide to the Shakespeare Project.

The Falstaff Project runs at the Frederic Wood Theatre, 6354 Crescent Road, 14 - 23 November 2002 at 19.30 Monday through Saturday. For tickets and information, call 604.822.2678.

2002, Jane Penistan