Sunday, 5 July 2009

A Fool Moon

We had planned to take in Much Ado About Nothing, The Company of Fools' latest Torchlight Shakespeare Production, on Friday night but lost heart as the rain dripped on steadily through suppertime. I spent the evening hunched over the computer watching a twenty-year-old Ontario Stratford Festival production of As You Like It, and envisioning elder daughter taking in the play at The Globe Theatre, occasionally pausing to scan London web cams to help my imaginings.

When elder daughter returned home yesterday afternoon from a week on a youth group "pilgrimage" to Iona (during which she avoided prayer at every opportunity), we learned that she had missed the play when the group was trapped by delays in the Underground coming from the airport. Instead, they spent three hours tramping around Eastcheap and Tower Hill, although nobody seemed to know exactly what it was they were looking at (aside from many unmistakable drunks).

So, as elder daughter set up camp to make up for a week away from the internet, the Resident Fan Boy, younger daughter and I set off for Strathcona Park. Younger daughter and I have but a week remaining before we flee to Victoria, so we felt delaying seeing M.A.A.N. might result in missing it altogether.

And that would have been a pity. The four or five regular readers of this blog may recall that we saw the Company of Fools' version of Romeo and Juliet last summer. That had been a mild summer day by Ottawa standards, rather like stepping into a warm tub. This particular evening was like a summer's evening in Victoria, although a tad more buggy. I got the folding chair, while the Resident Fan Boy and younger daughter settled on a duvet, and soon I was swaddling myself in my fleece jacket against the chill. Trust me, this was the first time I'd ever had to do so on a July evening in Ottawa.

Much Ado About Nothing has never been my favourite Shakespearean play, mainly because I usually spend a good chunk of the time wanting to throttle Claudio for being such a self-righteous git, and wondering why Hero still takes him on after his appalling treatment of her. I was relieved of such unpleasant sentiments this time, because the Company of Fools, for reasons of brevity, soul, and wit, have a rather cartoonish take on Shakespeare and Claudio, as played by AL Connors, is a big handsome empty-headed twit, and Hero, as played by Emmanuelle Zeesman, is a tiny gorgeous empty-head twit. Fine by me, much more palatable. (And a good thing, as I seemed to be swallowing rather a lot of gnats.)

Now here, I should mention that AL (yes he capitalizes it that way) Connors also played Margaret the maid. And about five other people. Emmanuelle Zeesman also played Hero's father Leonato. And the prince Don Pedro, among others. Margo MacDonald, a co-founder of the Company, was our Beatrice, and also the arch-villain Don John (who apparently possessed the ability to give people chills and never failed to exit without a diabolical laugh). Oh yes, she played other people too. Scott Florence, our Benedict with muddy knees (due, no doubt, to the raininess of the previous evenings) also played three or four other characters. Since M.A.A.N. often requires more than four of the characters on stage at a given time, use was made of several mannikins with flower-pot heads, as you may see from the publicity shot taken by Andrew Alexander who attended the rainy July 3rd performance that we, wusses that we are, missed. Whenever a mannikin's performance was taken over by a flesh-and-blood actor, the latter would don the hat and apron. It took about five minutes to get used to this, and then the story and performances took over. In fact, when the actors took their bows, it was a tribute to their efforts that I was startled to count only four actors.

The evening, as I've mentioned, was cool and lovely. (Native Ottawans would hate it.) At one point the crowd was startled by the sudden emergence of a black squirrel from the gathered mass of bodies seated on the ground. Claudio stared dumbstruck for a moment, then continued his line with a shrug and a grin. Younger daughter loved the physical comedy, and gazed delightedly as a rabbit hopped leisurely along the pathway, the one passerby that didn't stop to watch the show. Familiarity doesn't breed contempt in younger daughter and she was delighted to recognize the actors, particularly Margo MacDonald and Scott Florence, who were the pair of ice-cream-loving clowns in last winter's production of A Midwinter Dream's Tale.

After the show, they passed the hat, and we folded things up and strolled home under a mackerel sky, another rare thing in Ottawa. To the east, a nearly full moon hung over the Rideau River, looking exactly like the moon elder daughter had photographed over the Tower of London only the evening before.


Jane Henry said...

Yes Much Ado's a tricky one and the bed trick business (as in Measure for Measure) leaves a nasty taste in the mouth, but I do love it for the dazzling verbal exchanges of Beatrice and Benedick. Did you ever see any of the modernised Shakespeares the Beeb did? Sarah Parish was Beatrice to Damian Lewis' Benedick and Billie Piper, just pre Dr Who I think was Hero. Worth a look if you haven't seen it.

Glad you had a good time. Was bitching last night that had to drive eldest to see 12th Night in the open air, but she came back so entranced that I couldn't moan anymore! (Just wish I'd seen it).

What a shame that your daughter missed the Globe - was the tramping round The Tower an alternative, or did they get lost? (-:

(Mind you, now you have to come en masse as a family and all go!)

Persephone said...

Absolutely saw the BBC modern Shakespeares, also the modern Canterbury Tales.

Elder daughter got her tramp in Eastcheap only after a struggle. There she was, having missed The Globe and with three scant hours in London after an arduous journey down from Iona, and her companions were complaining that London was "too North American" and that they wanted to go to bed! They were seated in a Subway franchise at the time. Elder daughter ranted to me: "We were in London and we wasted 45 minutes in a Subway!" (We're now joking about Subway being traditional British cuisine.)
She said she was even excited about being trapped in a stalled train in the Underground because...she was in The Underground! In London!

Poor love. You're right; we'll have to get her back there. Preferably for a month. Or longer. (It would take that long just to do the British Museum...)

Jane Henry said...

Oh what a shame! Tower of London my favourite place in London, but not Eastcheap (the Globe second favourite place)Yes the BM needs a lifetime probably! Don't ever go to London museums in August though, they are hell on earth.

And if you do come, let me know and I'll come and say hello!

JoeinVegas said...

Outdoor plays - I'll have to write about my recent one. Sounds loverly there.