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Sunday, 25 September 2022

A Weekend of Three’s A Trip to Stratford

A Weekend of Three’s

In August I found myself on a trip to Stratford by myself. Our three children that live at home were all out of town. My wife celebrated a significant birthday that week and with no kids home she wanted some time with girlfriends. Several friends came over Friday and played games, had food and a few stayed the night. Many hung around and others stayed over Saturday. Normally I would have gone to Kingston and stayed with my brother but they were away on a Star Wars Cruise. I had been more than willing to go and stay at my in laws; we have keys, even though I am allergic to the 3 cats. Our youngest two were away with my mother-in-law and sister-in-law at a cottage in the Soo. But my wife wanted me to get out and have some fun. I do not like to spend money on myself, other than for books. 

I ended up renting a B&B in downtown Stratford, the cheapest I could find in the region. It was a nice room in a clean house and less than half the price of anything else in the region. I switched to this one a few days before travel. I went to Stratford my B&B was a 20 minute walk to down town and the Festival Theatre Halls. I watched three plays, read three books, wrote three book reviews and three articles, and had three great meals at restaurants recommended by a local friend. I ran into another friend at mass and met his family. I see him monthly at a Recollection at home in Kitchener. I spent a lot of time walking and a lot of time alone. I parked the car Friday when I got there and it did not move until I checked out on Sunday. It was a blessing.



3 Plays:
Richard III
Hamlet
The Miser

Three Books Read:

Three Book Reviews:

Three Articles:

Three Great Meals:
The restaurants were recommended by a co-worker who lives in Stratford.

Mercer Kitchen – Spicy Pork Dumplings, The Mercer Classic Burger with side salad.


Bentley’s – Blue Cheese Burger with side Salad and French Onion Soup.


The Boars Head – Shepherd’s Pie


On the Friday when I arrived I went straight to Saint Joseph's Catholic Church, I found out they do adoration from the 9am mass until 9pm on Fridays, so I sat a few hours. I prayed a new way of the cross, Year of Faith Stations of the Cross by Brendan Leahy part of the CTS Year of Faith series from 2012-2013. I prayed a Rosary, now considered an extremist symbol according to an article in The Atlantic, even if they have changed the title of the article and rewritten much of it. 

I saw Richard the Third at Stratford in 1988 on a grade 13 class trip. Colm Feore played Richard then and played him now. The first time was on the main festival stage, and this time was in the brand new state of the art Tom Patterson Theatre. The production was wonderful. Upon entering the theatre the stage was set up like a construction site. With graffiti about where it was, truth, royals … And the play opened with construction workers finding the grave of Richard in 2012. A news caster starts a broadcast. Telling of those events and as the stage is cleared Richard rises out of the hole to begin the play. The staging was magnificent. The costumes stunning, and the acting superb. There were a few race swaps, as to be expected these days. The costume for Richard really made me think of Liam’s spine before his surgery. After the play I went to a garden behind the theatre and had a conversation with Jamie Mac, who played Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, I showed him my son’s before and after pictures and he checked to see if I could get pictures of the costumes but they were already tucked away. He showed me pictures of himself in his version of the costume as he is the understudy. 




My son's before and after, and Richard's costume scoliosis.
My son and I went and saw it together later and he loved the depiction.

Hamlet I had mixed feelings about. This play was at the main festival theatre. The costumes were updated. The guards had guns and earpieces. Modern suits and clothing. The staging was spectacular. The updated costumes worked rather well. Starting with King Hamlet’s body in a glass coffin centre stage and having it rise a few times was well done. There are several race swaps, which were well done, and at least 1 gender swap also well done, Ijeoma Emesowum as Guildenstern was excellent. Hamlet is played by Amaka Umeh, I found her voice high pitched and grating, and her hands constantly fluttered. I have seen Hamlet portrayed as indecisive, brooding, and overly introspective. I have seen several versions on stage and film. But this version appeared flighty at best. It was distracting. I would love to see it again with the understudy as the rest of the production was excellent. Or I would love to see a production with Austin Eckert who played Laertes cast in the role of Hamlet. At the intermission I head a group talking that had seen an all-female production of Hamlet a few years ago and they mentioned disappointment in the portrayal in this production as well. 



I ended up going to this one because of cost and my conversation with Jamie Mac, he had mentioned he was in this one as well, and I was aware Colm starred in it also. Of the 15 cast in The Miser I believe 8 are in Richard III and another 4 are in Hamlet. There is a language warning and mature content warning on this one. The set is stunning. The performances are excellent. Several race swaps. A number of laugh out loud moments. And a completely farcical ending. It was entertaining and very well done. Colm has a long flowing wig and I could not help but think about William Hartnell as Doctor Who. 



I was also very interested in the brand new Hamlet 911 but tickets were out of my budget. It is a new play commissioned by the Stratford Festival written by Ann-Marie Macdonald. The description is: “Hamlet-911 brings us into the life of fictional actor Guinness Menzies who has landed his dream role of Hamlet at the Stratford Festival. But just before a matinée performance, he suddenly finds himself in the Underworld, a strange realm as frightening as it is hilarious, where time is seriously out of joint. Has he gone mad? Is he dreaming? Has he died? Meanwhile, teenager Jeremy attempts to reach out to Guinness online as he wrestles with his own version of Hamlet's famous life-or-death dilemma.”

And that was my weekend of three’s! 

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