Shakespeare in High Park celebrates 35 years of accessible outdoor theatre in Toronto. For the 2017 edition and to celebrate Canada 150, the company have a few fun things in store.
By Nicole Fairbairn
Canadian Stage’s Shakespeare in High Park’s open-air theatre is always a treat for Toronto audiences. This year, they pair the tragedy King Lear (a High Park premiere) and a delightfully modernized version of the comedy Twelfth Night. The shows are in repertory from June 29th to September 3rd at the High Park Amphitheatre and are pay-what-you-can events.
This season Canadian Stage teams with two up-and-coming directors graduating from York’s MFA Program in Stage Direction. Alistar Newton takes on the challenge of Lear and Tanja Jacobs updates the timeless comedy of Twelfth Night into a 1970’s, Wes Anderson-esqe love fest at Hotel Illyria. Both directors had to take on roles in the show as one of the actors fell sick, but it doesn’t detract from either show. Jacobs was particularly entertaining as Malvolio.
In Twelfth Night, twins Viola and Sebastian are separated at sea and end up on the shores of Illyria. Viola disguises herself as a boy and becomes a page for Duke Orsino. She falls in love with the Duke which is problematic seeing as she is dressed as a boy and the Duke loves another, Olivia. Throw into the mix a bunch of memorable characters such as the rowdy uncle Sir Toby, his foolish friend Sir Andrew Aguecheek and the hilarious clown Malvolio and it makes for an entertaining evening.
King Lear is taken from the female perspective, with multiple award-winning actor Diane D’Aquila taking on the central role. Queen Lear needs to divide her kingdom in three-parts so she asks her daughters Goneril, Regan and Cordelia to compete to show their love for her. Goneril and Regan give what she asks and profess their love, but favorite daughter Cordelia refuses. Lear is enraged and disowns Cordelia. Goneril and Regan betray their mother and Lear descends into madness.
The same actors are cast in both shows and it was very interesting seeing the shows two nights in a row. There is something enchanting about spending a nice summer evening watching theatre under the stars. Unlike regular theatre, audience members of all ages are welcome. What a wonderful way to expose children to the classics. If you aren’t bringing a chair, I highly recommend bringing lots of cushions and blankets to buffer your bottom from the very uncomfortable hard ground, there is not an intermission for either show. Bug spray will also be your friend.
To mark Canada 150, Canadian Stage is offering Shakespeare in High Park pre-show programming including Territorial Tales, a showcase for young writers and pre-show activities such as Shakespeare Hip-Hop, backstage tours, Youth Nights and pre-show chats.
Shakespeare in High Park’s Twelfth Night and King Lear runs through September 3.
For more information on Shakespeare in High Park please visit canadianstage.com for full details.