Review: Falstaff – I am addicted

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Who would have guessed that nearly three hours of Shakespeare, in a tent, could be so much fun!  But fun is exactly what I got (and a whole lot more) from the Bard on the Beach presentation of Falstaff now playing under the Studio Stage tent in Vanier Park through September 22nd.

Within Errol Durbach’s adaptation we are presented with two of Shakespeare’s plays, Henry IV, Part 1 and Henry IV, Part 2, in this single performance.  Given the scope of such an undertaking it isn’t surprising that it takes the nearly three hours to get us to the end of Henry IV’s reign.

I’m not going to go into a synopsis here (it covers way too much ground for this small space) but suffice to say unless you know your Shakespeare well, you really do want to read up about the story in the playbill before the show, or better yet download the synopsis in PDF format from the Bard on the Beach website.

There is not a weak link in the large cast here (another reason you need to read a synopsis).  We feel Henry IV’s (Kevin McNulty) royal and parental pain, we feel Hotspur’s (Bob Frazer) focused anger, we weep with Lady Kate Percy (Amber Lewis) and we laugh with, and ultimately feel sorry for, Sir John Falstaff (Dean Paul Gibson).

Amber Lewis as Kate Percy and Bob Frazer as Hotspur in the Bard on the Beach production of Falstaff.  Photo by David Blue.

Given its scale, Director Glynis Leyshon does an amazing job in moving us briskly through the story.  The action scenes are intense, the comedy well planned and executed and the drama is simply riveting.  Leyshon returns to Bard on the Beach after a nine year absence; based on what she has done here with Falstaff let’s hope she comes back more often.

One of the off-stage stars in this production is Costume Designer Sheila White.  Her luscious costumes in reds, browns, blacks, brocades, tapestries and leather are simply gorgeous and at times oh so very, very sexy.  Combined with Pam Johnson’s wonderful set of dark colours and rusting metal, this production is just as beautiful to look at as it is to watch.

Like a good soap opera, I admit I am now addicted.  I can hardly wait to find out what Bard on the Beach does to Shakespeare’s next King.  Bring on Henry V!

4 out of 5 StarsFalstaff
Bard on the Beach, Studio Stage
1 July – 22 September 2010

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