It’s like having a private play staged in your own home—if you can imagine yourself as the proprietor of Edmonton’s beautiful Rutherford House.
The real owner of this impressive brick structure, built in 1911, was Alberta’s first premier: Alexander Cameron Rutherford. But it’s easy to daydream as you are led through its lovely rooms by the young performers in Thou Art Here’s roving production of Shakespeare’s iconic comedy Much Ado About Nothing.
We begin outside on the front steps, watching Beatrice (Gianna Vacirca), her cousin Hero (Marlee Yule) and her cousin’s father Leonato (Kris Joseph) up on the balcony. This production has localized the play’s setting: the visiting prince Don John and his entourage are not from Aragon, but Strathcona—and the dapper early-20th-century costumes are appropriately matched to the Rutherford House’s own era.
The show’s initial sense of delicious voyeurism quickly changes as the performers engage with the audience more directly. While a necessity given the show’s roving nature—they have to herd us around, after all—it’s used to great effect, and really does make you feel a part of the story. Some scenes are naturally a little uncomfortable with 25 people squeezed into Rutherford House’s smaller rooms, but it certainly lends an intimacy that can’t be had at a conventional theatre venue.
Arguably Shakespeare’s most lighthearted comedy (no one dies), Much Ado features one of drama’s most entertaining couples: the razor-tongued Beatrice and Benedick, who are engaged in a “merry war” of wit and snappy banter. Vacirca and Stevens are no slouches in these benchmark roles, infusing each with their own flair: Vacirca’s Beatrice is particularly engaging for her jubilant laugh and general frivolity.
The rest of the cast is a bit more uneven in their handling of the language, but what they lack in finesse they make up for in gusto: hanging out windows, peeping around doorways and creeping behind bushes; the performers are clearly having a ball in this unique venue, and their enthusiasm is infectious. Andrew Ritchie’s direction is inventive and uses the space to great effect; despite the (sometimes literal) bumps this is a lively, vibrant rendition of a classic play—and a great chance to ogle a lovely piece of local architecture.
Until Fri, May 16 (7:30 pm)
Directed by Andrew Ritchie
Rutherford House, $15 – $20