Jun 23, 2010

Stratford Shakespeare Festival 2010

Christopher Plummer as Prospero. Image by Andrew Accles

Julyana Soelistyo as Ariel. Image by David Hou

It's Saturday afternoon and we are driving to Stratford to see the great Christopher Plummer in The Tempest. This is my first visit to the Shakespeare festival and I am exited about the play and also an opportunity to visit one of the best sightseeing destinations in Ontario. The Victorian city of Stratford has all imaginable attractions - great dining, shopping and architecture, fascinating riverside walks, and an abandonment of picnic spots. We have an early dinner at the local Chinese restaurant and head to the Festival theatre for the very anticipated performance.

From the city's picturesque downtown we walk on the riverside admiring the tranquil scenery. Both banks are flooded with fresh greenery and the water itself is surprisingly clear and inviting… I regret not bringing a swimming suit for a quick pre-performance dive.

The Festival theatre is magnificent inside and out. The grounds in front of the entrance are made into some sort of Botanical garden with all kinds of beautiful flowers and leafy plants and even a tiny pond with water lilies. I wish there were some gold fish in that pond - it would make the place really magical. After taking a million pictured in the garden we go inside and find our seats on the balcony.

The performance hall has unique and clever layout with a round stage centered in the amphitheatre. It's virtually impossible to get bad sits in it. The view is clear from all angles and the acoustics is good enough for a symphony. The seats are surprisingly comfortable and inviting with plenty of leg room and cushioning to get us through the 3-hour play. It looks like all tickets are sold out and the theatre is full. The crowd ranges from elderly couples to teenagers with facial piercing - koodos to the festival organizers for attracting a variety of people. Stratford is becoming a destination for many demographics including young couples and families with small children. The festival's performances are diverse and appealing to all age groups.

Des McAnuff is the festival's Artistic Director and director of The Tempest. He gives a very lively and seemingly unrehearsed intro to the performance and the lights go off…

In all honesty, The Tempest is one of the best theatrical performances I've seen in the past few years. Visual effects, costumes, and stage set-up are all great, let alone the magnificent performance by Sir Christopher Plummer and Julyana Soelistyo (Ariel). For the entire length of the play I couldn't rid myself of the feeling that I was watching Plummer, Soelistyo, and others perform at the Cirque du Soleil. I was going to write a detailed account of the performance, but after giving it some thought I will simply encourage everyone to go and see The Tempest or another play at the festival.

So, take your family, your friends, and your loved ones and come to Stratford for a day (or few) to remember.


1 comment:

Stratfordfest said...

Thank you for telling us about your trip to Stratford. I'm really glad that you enjoyed the performance. July 6 & 7 we are actually filming The Tempest which should be a lot of fun.
Aaron Kropf
Social and Online Media Coordinator
Stratford Shakespeare Festival