Bard on the Beach’s rendition of The Winter’s Tale was an event featuring a unique and interesting approach to the creative demands of the English playwright.
On June 22, the show opened up its first real viewing in a large outdoor tent overlooking a picturesque view of the Kitsilano Beach. The event was preceded with a woman warrior song and dance by Squamish Nation Councillor Deborah Baker in celebration of female empowerment and the women who have inspired her in her own life.
The stage was decorated with a simple yet elegant collection of classical white pillars that were complemented by the actors’ Greco-Roman inspired costumes, setting the atmosphere for an ancient fairy tale. Along with its visual components, the show’s brilliant choreography deserves praise for the originality that it brought to the classic tale.
At the beginning of the show, choreographers, Tracey Power and Wendy Gorling, employed clever introductory tableaus with an ambience that fits perfectly with the production’s scenic backdrop and classical set design.
The efficient use of masked actors to transport certain props was also a skillful move that added to the stage’s visual appeal. As the actors shifted their bodies or their designated objects during scenes, the stage became an arena for never-ending movements that strategically trained the audience's eye to view scene transitions like pages turning in a shakespearean folio.
Whether it was opening night jitters or the idle Thursday drag, a lot of energy and presence on stage was lacking in the performances of the show’s first half. In addition to this, the chemistry amongst the main characters felt staged and often times over-compensated for with extraneous yelling and growling. Meanwhile, character intention was hidden in a visible artifice that dragged the actors down into ill-suited performances that were unable to serve the story well.
In contrast, the comedic components of the show were its carrying power in the last half. While the language of Shakespeare’s works is often hard to understand, the comedic characters were able to find honesty in their scenes, making the viewing more understandable and enjoyable.
The cast members were selected from a wide range of artistic and cultural backgrounds, which made the show more interesting in how it subverted traditional casting in Shakespearean plays. The interracial relationships and hetero-racial ancestry distracted attention away from sensical pedigree and put more focus on the artistic value of the story and the actors’ performances.
Overall, the evening carried attributes true to Bard on the Beach’s classic style. Yet, Bard on the Beach’s 28th season is one that embraces the on-going fight for diversity and respects the integrity of theatre as an artistic medium knowing no bounds to religion, race and identity.