The 2017/2018 season will begin with Shakespeare in Love
With artistic director Daryl Cloran’s first season of programming before us, the Citadel is bringing a classic of Elizabethan austerity, Shakespearean romance and modern hilarity to their stage with Lee Hall’s adaptation of Shakespeare in Love. A co-production with the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, Cloran chose the script as his season-opener to begin a season of telling historically silenced voices.
“To start with Shakespeare in Love, for me, beyond the love story, it’s a fantastic story about a group of people coming together and challenging the norm to redefine whose voices are allowed on stage,” Cloran says. “The whole story of Shakespeare in Love is about the first woman on the stage.”
Many will have seen the Academy Award-winning film—directed by John Madden and written by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard—which explores how Shakespeare may have come about writing his iconic Romeo and Juliet.
Joseph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow play Shakespeare and his love interest, Viola in the 1998 film, which depicts a more modern interpretation of Shakespeare. Now adapted as a play within a play, the actors are working with multiple layers of portrayal, says Garett Ross who plays Henslowe, the owner of the London theatre that puts on the tragic production.
“It’s all of our lives, everything we’re doing on stage is stuff that all of our lives are based around. It’s like I’m just retelling my life,” says Ross. “It’s very Inception.”
He and his fellow actors find the script lends itself well to being turned into a play.
“You can’t compare the two,” Ross says. “When you put it on the stage, it turns into something completely different.”
The chaos begins right at the top of the show, as the entire ensemble comes out on stage to watch Shakespeare working. It’s this very collaboration that sets the play apart from the movie.
“It’s very much about these 20 people making this show tonight for the audience, which, to have that many bodies on stage telling a story is pretty exciting to see,” Ross says.
Set in Elizabeth I’s 1593 London, the story is one of young love and desire. The characters of Shakespeare and Viola along with others put on a production of Romeo and Juliet within the performance and the chaos becomes tangible.
The cast of 20 (plus one dog) come from across the country, with nine Edmontonians filling out nearly half.
With a dog trainer connection from a previous show, Cloran and his team also had to search for a scruffy-looking dog to complete the ensemble.
“We found this great trained rescue dog who lost an eye,” Cloran says. “She does these incredible tricks!”
Sizzle, a scruffy little miniature Australian Shepherd, has about three scenes in the play as well as an understudy, Cinder. The actors are all very excited about the dog and how it will play with the audience and energy in the room.
“Daryl jokes, y’know, the dog comes out and all of your beautiful little love stories turn into mush,” says Andrew Chown, who plays Will Shakespeare.
With contemporary humour that doesn’t pass over most heads like some Shakespearean banter, the script is well-suited to modern senses without leaving out the beloved Shakespearean prose and period costumes that come along with it.
Many of the extravagant costumes were sketched and sewn in-house, though one particularly special costume has travelled from the country of the play’s origins. Sarah Constible, playing Queen Elizabeth I is both excited and slightly anxious about her costume, which comes directly from England.
To join Constible’s ornate gown will be a full bevy of sewn-in-house garments made to fit the period. Cloran finds that the play embodies the strength of the Citadel, through talent both on and off the stage.
“It gives us an opportunity to do something that’s really opulent and beautiful to look at,” he says.
The humour comes to life on stage, showing off some of the Citadel’s chops in the set and costume design departments.w
The production will run for the classic three weeks before packing up and heading to Winnipeg, where seven of the cast members hail from.