James Stewart Reaney

James’s Brander Newer Blogger

Make no mistake, says Western Prof. M.J. Kidnie, Comedy of Errors is a little jewel of a play.

Kidnie wraps up a series of Stratford Festival talks at Masonville branch library Tuesday May 29. The Shakespeare expert and ace advocate for live theatre in the London region will have plenty to say about Comedy Of Errors.

“Don’t let anyone dismiss Errors,” Kidnie says in an email Q&A about the 2018 Stratford Festival season with LondonFuse. “It’s a great play. And it’s short. And it stars Beryl Bain as Dromio of Syracuse. Bring the kids.”

Her full response about Errors is here — and so is her appreciation of Bain as the sexiest star in the 2018 Stratfest company. And so is her prediction the 2018 fest production flying under the radar is Milton’s Paradise Lost. And more.

It all started with a flippant question —

Q: Great series at the LPL Masonville branch —- but IMHO, they are saving the best for last. Any response to that comment?

The Q’s suggestion was that M.J. Kidnie was the last and best speaker in a distinguished series.

What was her response to the potential distraction? Her ‘A’ was all about Comedy Of Errors, the last play from the 2018 fest playbill to be discussed.

No mistaking that ability to focus.

Here is a slightly edited version of the email Q&A:

Q: What could Stratfest do in 2018 that hasn’t been done to death many many many times before?

A: Besides two SF-commissioned world premieres (Paradise Lost and Bronte), a brand new translation of de Fillippo’s Napoli Milionari commissioned by the SF (first written 1945, and first adapted into English at the National Theatre, UK in 1995), and Rocky Horror?

Western Prof. M.J. Kidnie. Photo courtesy of Western News.
Western Prof. M.J. Kidnie. Photo courtesy of Western News.

And if all that leaves you feeling same-old, same-old, they’ll give 50/50 gender casting in two Shakespeare plays, and (Robert) Lepage directing Coriolanus for good measure?! You’re a tough customer, James Reaney!!

Q: We chatted about Julius Caesar — and recalled the excellent April 2016 High School Project production at the Grand directed by Megan Watson. What has Scott Wentworth been telling you about the JC at Stratford this summer?

A: Like Comedy Of Errors, it will be 50/50 gender casting. Stratford is embracing gender parity in a timely, and potentially for some patrons, provocative way.

Wentworth is on fire at the prospect of Seana McKenna giving her Julius Caesar. He was determined that cross-gender casting wouldn’t be limited to small roles. Michelle Giroux as Marc Antony strikes me personally as an utterly brilliant casting choice.

These are women actors at the height of their career, who know how to play that Festival Stage. Going to be amazing. There will be no text revisions – no “Prospera”, as with Martha Henry in The Tempest. So Caesar is Caesar, played by a woman.

What do you see, when you watch that performance? A woman’s body? A performance of a man’s body? A male character, and the body under the costume is elided (for the most part), as it seems was the case with boy/men actors playing women’s parts in Shakespeare’s time? It will be exciting to see!

Q: Who is the sexiest star in The Stratfest 2018 company?

A: Beryl Bain.

She played opposite E.B. Smith in The Mountaintop here at the Grand a couple of years ago. Sets the room on fire. Love her. She’s playing Charlotte Bronte in Bronte, and Dromio of Syracuse in Errors. And Lepage. I’ve had a theatre crush on Lepage for 20 years.

Every time I see his work, I come away utterly inspired, freed to think on a completely different plane.

Q: Who is the Stratfest star (or production) which might be flying under the radar just now — but will be front and centre later?

A: Milton’s Paradise Lost, directed by super-star Jackie Maxwell (former Artistic Director at Shaw). Buy tickets now – it’s a late opener, and it’ll sell out.

Website already flagging nudity, so I’m guessing that’s how they’ll handle the staging of Adam and Eve pre-“apple”. Western’s Summer Shakespeare production this year is being turned over to Milton’s Samson Agonistes (1-4, 8-11 August).

We have a director who has always wanted to do it, and Stratford’s decision to adapt Paradise Lost seemed too good a chance to miss. Fantastic chance to see two plays you might never, ever again get a chance to see.

Q: What’s your all-time favourite Stratfest production?

A: Soft spot for Antoni Cimolino’s Love’s Labour’s Lost (2003?). I was sitting in the balcony near a little girl (7 or 8 years old?) who laughed and laughed and laughed all the way through. It was such a clear, smart, funny show. Unbelievable achievement.

 

IF YOU GO

What: The Stratford Festival Lecture Series 2018, an LPL program with speakers provided by the fest.

When: Final talk is Tuesday, May 29, 7 p.m., on Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors.

Where: Masonville branch library, 30 North Centre Road, London.

Details: Free. Q&A follows talk, Visit lpl.ca or call 519-660-4646.

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