Category Archives: Theatre

Getting to Know Richard II

am-i-not-kingOur son is part of a group of performers who will be presenting a musical version of Richard II at Winnipeg’s Westend Cultural Centre this week called Am I Not King? I’ve been trying to learn something about the monarch at the heart of Shakespeare’s play. Here is the basic plot. 

  1. Richard II is a young monarch very trendy and regal but he spends money rashly on Italian fashions and his friends, chooses poor people to advise him and raises taxes to fund his sometimes ill conceived military escapades.  
  2. In need of cash he seizes the land of his dead uncle who was a really popular guy and this makes everyone mad. 
  3. Henry of Bolingbroke is Richard’s cousin and should have inherited the land Richard confiscated. People really like Henry who Richard has sent into exile. 
  4. While Richard is over in Ireland fighting a war cousin Henry gets an army together and invades England. Common folk and nobles alike rally around Henry and by the time Richard gets back from Ireland his cousin has taken over the country. 
  5. Richard is imprisoned in a remote castle where an assassin  who may or may not have been hired by King Henry kills Richard.

Here are five interesting things about the play.

  1. Richard II is the only play Shakespeare wrote completely in verse. 
  2. In the play Richard’s wife Isabela is an adult but in reality she was a child bride who was married to Richard at age 6 in an attempt to create peace between England and France during the Hundred Years War. Also historians believe Richard starved to death in exile. He wasn’t murdered as Shakespeare depicts. 
  3. The play was considered politically dangerous when it was written in the 1590s because at the time a group of rebellious nobles led by the Earl of Essex were attempting to overthrow Queen Elizabeth just as Henry overthrew his cousin Richard in the play. 
  4. A famous quote from the play is…… I wasted time, and now doth time waste me.
  5. I’ve found a novel for young readers called The Gentle Falcon which tells the story of Richard’s wife Isabella and downloaded it on my Kindle to read before I see the play

By the way you can get tickets to the play/musical here.  

Other posts……

 The Real Richard III

Henry V- Just About Perfect

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The Costumes Were Worth the Price of Admission

She stood gravely at centre stage looking simply stunning in her creamy coronation gown surrounded by church officials attired in crimson robes and golden crowns.
mtc-ticketI saw The Audience at the Manitoba Theatre Centre on Saturday night and the costumes stole the show as far as I’m concerned. The Audience chronicles decades worth of weekly meetings between the Queen and the British primeministers.  The play is not a fast paced or intense drama but what kept me riveted during the show were the marvelous outfits worn by Fiona Reid who played the role of Queen Elizabeth.
the-audienceWhether dressed in her Scottish tartan skirt and soft sweater, a gorgeous evening gown, a smart suit or a finely tailored dress the Queen always looked just about perfect- her hair coiffed, her jewelery tasteful, her shoes fashionable but serviceable and her handbags handsome. And what is even more amazing is how a trio of attendants managed to help the queen change her hairstyle, outfits and makeup in just moments either right on stage, discreetly tucked behind the queen’s desk or hidden momentarily behind a small dressing room partition.
Almost magically Fiona Reid would reappear dressed for a new scene that often took place during a period in history decades before or after the previous scene. The hasty transformations in style were really quite fascinating.christina-poddubiuk I admit I don’t usually read the program notes about the costume designer but this time I certainly did.  Christina Poddubuik was responsible for the costumes and sets for The Audience.  I looked her up online and she is a partner in a design firm called Punch and Judy.  It was neat checking out her unique work as an illustrator, stylist and artist. Although the costume designer doesn’t usually come on stage to take a bow at the end of a play I think Christina should have.  I would have given her a standing ovation.  As far as I’m concerned she was the star of the show. 

Other posts about theatre…….

Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter

John Hirsch Place

Jasper Station

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Another Fringe Trio

I’ve seen another three plays at the Fringe all of them excellent! One made me cry. One made me laugh and one left me puzzled. 

Ingrid Garner has adapted an autobiography written by her grandmother, an American teenager trapped in Berlin during World War II.  It is a powerful and emotional story staged with appropriate slides in the background, complimentary sound effects and an emotional performance by Ingrid.  Just a warning. Ingrid speaks very quickly so you have to be focused and attentive to catch everything, but the story is riveting enough to make that pretty easy. I attended with a friend whose aunt survived the horrors of  war-torn Berlin during her teenage years and my friend found the play very poignant.  I can whole heartedly recommend it.promise and promiscuity Penny Ashton is very funny and very talented as she plays a whole host of characters in her unique Jane Austen story Promise and Promiscuity.  It contains many lines from Jane’s well- known works.

Penny Ashton is a funny woman

Penny Ashton is a funny woman

Penny sings original songs and she called up a man from the audience to dance in a lovely humorous scene.  I am a Jane Austen fan. I have read most of her books, some more than once, and have watched movie versions of many of her stories. But I think you would enjoy this play even if you don’t know anything about Jane Austen. 

Penny greets her fans after the show

Penny greets her fans after the show

old timesThe actors in renowned playwright  Harold Pinter’s Old Times  are superb!!  The three are all consummate professionals and deliver a script that will leave you engaged but puzzled.  What was REALLY going on?  I did a little research when I got home but to my surprise there is no definitive answer even from literary critics and reviewers who all have their own idea about what exactly is  transpiring in this play. Go and see it for yourself and let me know what you think. 

Other posts……

Fringing Times Three

Jane Austen Overload

The Real Richard III

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The Real Richard III?

richard IIII enjoyed the excellent performance of Richard III by the Shakespeare in the Ruins company last night.  This morning I decided to do a little research to review the historical events I had seen portrayed in the play.  What I discovered is that Shakespeare’s Richard III isn’t really historical at all. Shakespeare was basically doing a smear job on Richard making him evil and unattractive when in fact historians and scientists tell us something quite different. A couple of years ago they discovered Richard III’s bones under a parking garage in Leicester and tests on his remains proved that while he did have scoliosis he was not short and not nearly as crippled by the disease as Shakespeare portrayed him and he did not have an emaciated arm. There is no actual proof he killed two young princes in order to take over the throne of England and most likely his wife Anne married him willingly and died of tuberculosis. In Shakespeare’s version Anne is forced to marry Richard and he poisons her.

richard III wiki commons artist unknown

Richard III as portrayed by an unknown artist in the late 16th century

 Apparently in his short two-year reign Richard, who was a lover of literature, music, architecture and education made some progressive changes to the British legal system. A Richard III Society has been in operation since 1924 defending the legacy of the much maligned king. Since I wrote a blog post yesterday about Jane Austen I should add that she was ‘inclined to suppose King Richard III a very respectable man.’ Debbie Patterson does a great job of making King Richard a maniacal, manipulative and ultimately pitiful monarch in the Shakespeare in the Ruins production, but it’s just a little disconcerting to know that the real King Richard III probably wasn’t anything like that at all.

Other posts………      

A Mid Summer Night’s Dream

Antony and Cleopatra and the Mosquitoes

Food From the Land and Shakespeare in the Ruins


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Trip Down Memory Lane

We saw BOOM at the Manitoba Theatre Centre on Monday night. It was a real trip down memory lane as we were whisked through the 1950s and 1960s by gifted solo performer Rick Miller. boom rick miller

Boom is short for Baby Boomer and Baby Boomers like us were definitely in the majority of the seats at the theatre.  Using video, a clever set, props and many different voices the multi-talented Miller told the personal story of his family as he explored the cultural and historical events that shaped his parents’ childhood and young adulthood. 

 It reminded me of several blog posts I’ve done on my personal connection to those same decades.  Check out Duck and Cover and Where Were You

boom mtcMany people think we live in turbulent and troubled times in 2016 but after seeing BOOM I’m wondering how we can believe the world is in any more turmoil today then it was in the 1950s and 1960s.  

Other posts…….


Inspiration from Billy Elliot

Quo Vadis

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Donald Trump on Tiananmen Square

Yesterday I did a blog post about Tiananmen Square and this morning I read that in last night’s Republican presidential debate Donald Trump was asked about comments he once made regarding the 1989 event.  Trump called the massacre at the square a ‘riot’ and said it had been stopped by ‘a strong and powerful government.’  

This morning friends from Hong Kong were posting links to an article in the Hong Kong Free Press describing the exchange of words about Tiananmen Square between candidate John Kasich and Trump during the debate. 

chimericaOn Wednesday I saw the play Chimerica at the Manitoba Theater Center. It explores the complex and troubling relationship between China and the United States.  It’s a relationship that may become even more complex and troubling should Donald Trump be elected the next American president.

Other posts……..

A Strange Family Photo- The Chinese Revolution and One Child Policy

Skin Color

Three Gorges Project


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Chimerica- Personal Memories and Connections With Tiananmen Square

marylou in tiananmen squareI was reminded of my visit to Tiananmen Square in Beijing as I watched the play Chimerica at the Manitoba Theatre Centre.  The story revolves around an American news photographer in 2012 who believes the defiant young man who stood in front of the tanks in Tiananmen Square during the student uprisings of 1989 is still alive and living in New York.  The photographer is determined to find him.  

jan wong red china bluesAs the play transported us back to China and Tiananmen Square in 1989 I thought of Canadian journalist Jan Wong.  She was in a hotel looking out over the square as the students were massacred and she gives a vivid and disturbing account of it in her book Red China BluesThe production of Chimerica at MTC uses video, a clever stage set, sound effects and lighting to also give us an inside look at what might have happened in Tiananmen Square. mtc program tiananmen square timelineThe Chimerica program provides a historical timeline for the 1989 student demonstrations for democracy but it personalizes the events by telling us the story of a young couple who were in the square the day of the massacre. 

 I once listened to a university professor who was in Beijing during the student protests give a first hand account of her experience in Tiananmen Square. I’ve blogged about it .  I wondered where playwright Lucy Kirkwood had found the information she used to recreate the Tiananmen Square events for her play Chimerica. Did she travel to China? Conduct interviews?  dave in tinanamen squareDuring our visit to Tiananmen Square our guide was very reluctant to discuss the events that happened there in 1989. Apparently the iconic photo of the young man standing in front of the tanks still can not be accessed online in China.

chinese man with deng xiaoping statue in hong kongIn 2004 I attended a huge exhibit in Hong Kong honoring the life of Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping. People were happily posing with likenesses of him and having their children do so too.  child with deng xiaopingAbsolutely no mention was made in the entire exhibit that Xiaoping was the leader who had ordered the massacre of the students in Tiananmen Square. He was being remembered only as a great leader who had modernized China. 

According to the play Chimerica which is set in 2012 it is still dangerous to talk about Tiananmen Square in a public way in China or in fact to express negative opinions about any government policy.  

Posing with a statue of dissident artist Ai Wei Wei at the Art Gallery of Ontario

Posing with a statue of dissident artist Ai Wei Wei at the Art Gallery of Ontario

As I was watching Chimerica I thought of dissident Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei who has  paid the price for his criticism of the Chinese government.  The play Chimerica does a good job of reminding us that while China has certainly changed in many ways some things, like the government’s attitude towards freedom of expression still seem to be firmly rooted in an oppressive past. 

Other posts…….

Ai Wei Wei- Giving The Finger to his Home and Native Land Through His Art

Remembering the Children of Sichuan

Visiting The Great Wall

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