Savage God Company
The Shakespeare Project
Christ Church Cathedral
Reviewer: Jane Penistan
John Juliani's vision of presenting the complete Shakespeare canon is in its final stages of realization. During the past week, from July 12 to July 18, there were 7 presentations. These were the history plays, beginning with Henry 1V Parts 1 and 2; Henry V; Henry V1, Parts 1, 2 and 3; followed by Richard III and closing with Henry VIII, leading up to the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.
All the productions had their own individuality. Each director used the chancel of the refurbished cathedral differently, and his/her ingenuity to make the productions interesting, clear and meaningful.
The opening play used the chancel steps as stage. From this area all the voices were clearly audible and Torquil Campbell's Prince Hal led the company from a leisurely, fun loving community to a society facing the reality of impending war and a restricted lifestyle.
John Paterson, directing the second and third part of Henry V1, gave clarity to this confusing play by having his actors wear distinctive clothes, the nobility in suits and ties and the people in casual attire. He also differentiated the opposing factions by the use of coloured scarves. The stylized fights in this productions were particularly effective.
For Richard III, Jeremy Tow chose to present the play in the round between the choir stalls, with the audience on the chancel steps or in the choir stalls. This restricted the acting space and caused the voices from the east end of the chancel to be almost inaudible. He also chose to use percussion instruments to indicate scene changes and omitted the fights.
John Wright directed Henry 1V Part 2 with an all women cast. This was an unusual presentation and an intriguing one. Wendy M. Donaldson as alstaff had all the humour and roguery of the old knight. Nicole Leroux was a princely Hal, and Dawn Petten's Shallow was deliciously doddering.
Henry VIII was directed by Moira Wylie. She also had the audience on three sides, in the choir stalls and at the chancel steps, but used only half the long chancel. This brought the audience into close proximity to the actors. For clarity, some of the stage directions were read from a choir stall. Wylie also made use of the cathedral aisles for the processional entries of assembled nobles, in the court scenes. Allan Morgan's delivery of Cardinal Wolsey's farewell speech was intensely moving.
After this interesting and intriguing week, there will be an interval, and the performances will resume on Monday, July 26, beginning with Twelfth Night, directed by Bill Millerd. During the ensuing week the little known Cymbeline, Timon of Athens and Pericles will be presented. Winter's Tale will follow and then the culmination of the project, Hamlet, on July 31.
Each of these staged readings has its own uniqueness. This is part of the fascination of this major undertaking. If you have never seen any of this week's lesser known plays, here is an opportunity to hear the words well delivered and to experience these seldom performed works.
The Shakespeare Project runs at Christ Church Cathedral July 12 - July 18 and July 26 - 31, 2004 at 7.00 p.m. Free Admission (pay what you will). All performances are benefits for The Actors Fund of Canada.
© 2004, Jane Penistan