December 18, 2018

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In praise of controlled chaos

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/10/2017 (423 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Adapted from the 1998 Oscar-winning best picture of the same name, Shakespeare in Love depicts a situation of utter chaos.

Young playwright William Shakespeare (Andrew Chown), suffering writer’s block, struggles to fulfil the contractual obligation of producing a manuscript for a play.

It is especially needed by theatre producer Henslowe (Garett Ross), who has promised the work as an advance against a debt carried by Fennyman (Ashley Wright), a dangerous businessman who will henceforth be known by the modern term, “The Money.”

Shakespeare finds his creative muse in Viola de Lesseps (Bahareh Yaraghi), the daughter of a rich merchant whose hand in marriage has been promised to impoverished nobleman Wessex (Kevin Klassen).

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/10/2017 (423 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Adapted from the 1998 Oscar-winning best picture of the same name, Shakespeare in Love depicts a situation of utter chaos.

Young playwright William Shakespeare (Andrew Chown), suffering writer’s block, struggles to fulfil the contractual obligation of producing a manuscript for a play.

It is especially needed by theatre producer Henslowe (Garett Ross), who has promised the work as an advance against a debt carried by Fennyman (Ashley Wright), a dangerous businessman who will henceforth be known by the modern term, "The Money."

Shakespeare finds his creative muse in Viola de Lesseps (Bahareh Yaraghi), the daughter of a rich merchant whose hand in marriage has been promised to impoverished nobleman Wessex (Kevin Klassen).

Will doesn’t know that Viola, dressed as a man, has auditioned for a role under the name Thomas Kent.

Needless to say, Will’s star-crossed love for Viola leads to some dramatic changes to his comedy in progress, Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate’s Daughter.

It looks hopeless. But of course, that’s kind of the point of showbiz, as Henslowe explains to Fennyman.

"The natural condition of the theatre is insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster," Henslowe says.

"Strangely enough, it all turns out well."

Indeed it does. Lee Hall’s faithful theatrical adaptation of the 1998 film scripted by Tom Stoppard and Marc Norman miraculously translates the busy, multi-character work with visual economy (if economy is the word you dare use when there are 20 actors on the stage at the same time).

Much credit goes to designer Cory Sincennes, whose set is structured like the multi-tiered Globe theatre, but also accommodates scenic quick-change, going from a balcony to a bedroom to royal court in the blink of an eye (a turntable at centre stage ingeniously allows us to see onstage performance and backstage shenanigans virtually simultaneously).

The cast is terrific. Chown makes the poet/playwright into an appropriate romantic figure: a sexy wretch.

As Viola, Toronto-based Yaraghi so radiates intelligence and nascent sensuality, you’ll be even more inclined than usual to forget about Gwyneth Paltrow.

Many familiar faces from the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre take the stage and all excel in character roles, especially Paul Essiembre as bombastic actor Richard Burbage, Sarah Constible bringing the formidable as Queen Elizabeth, Tom Keenean as the somewhat psychopathic would-be Romeo (and future playwright) John Webster and the previously mentioned Klassen as the vile Wessex.

But spare some notice for the out-of-towners in the RMTC and Citadel Theatre co-production, including Gabe Grey as Will’s friendly rival Kit Marlowe and Kayvon Khoshkam as actor Ned Alleyn, the Elizabethan answer to Tom Cruise.

The play’s running joke is that not much has changed in show business when it comes to the dynamics of writers, performers, directors, producers and the people who strive to join that club (that latter contingent including Viola, an anonymous boatman shopping his own voluminous script, and the stage-struck Fennyman).

Ultimately, the play explains the attraction — it’s not just the admiration and the scruffy glamour.

In a world never short of confusion and chaos, theatre helps explain the inexplicable, even when the explanation is as vague as Henslowe’s response to the question of just how everything in theatre manages to turn out well: "It’s a mystery."

randall.king@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @FreepKing

Randall King

Randall King
Reporter

In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.

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