Caminos Festival:-plays on identity;culture, language Reply

Review by Ellen S. Jaffe
Caminos Festival, now in its second year, took place at the Daniels Spectrum in Toronto, October 5-8th. Sponsored by Aluna Theatre, and this year in partnership with Native Earth Performing Arts, the Festival presents plays that are not only written and performed by Pan-American artists, but also deal with issues of identity, social justice, language, history, and other cultural/personal situations. (Last year, I reviewed Antigonas: Women’s Tribunal, the story of women whose relatives were “disappeared” in the ongoing civil war in Colombia, and also a Maori version of Othello.)

A dramatic on-stage moment

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“Choral Spectacular”, NAO’s terrific Festival closer 1

Review by Danny Gaisin

The Brott National Academy Orchestra finished its 30th season with a superlative concert; four featured soloists and seventy-four choir-members selected from dozens of diverse venues – all coming together as one coordinated unit. The magic required to accomplish such a feat was contributed by chorus manager Paul Hawkins and under the mastership of Stephane Potvin. The latter is artistic director of MUSIKAY, a small ensemble whose popularity is growing with each season, but the challenge of creating something tenfold in size boggles the mind. It would be egregious not to mention the challenge facing the podium – choral group AND an orchestra.

Bradley, Segal, MacMaster & Westman performing ‘Ode to Joy with the NAO & Chorus

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Shaken not Stirred – The Music of “Bond” 3

Review by Judith Caldwell
The penultimate concert in the 2017 Brott Music Festival was an evening of music inspired by the James Bond movie franchise. It featured the National Academy Orchestra conducted by the NAO’s artistic director Boris Brott, and Roï Azoulay, this years’ apprentice conductor, plus the Jeans ‘n Classics quartet of John Regan keyboard, Jeff Christmas (drums), bassist Mitch Tyler and Peter Brennan on guitar, whose arrangements of the Bond tunes were spectacularly good. Also on the bill were Rique Franks whose rich contralto perfectly suited the music, and Neil Donnell who has a chameleon voice which he used to mimic Marvin Gaye, Louis Armstrong and Duran Duran among others.

Cartoon by Otto Binder (BIZARRO)

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TIMON OF ATHENS: “riches to rags, generosity to despair” Reply

Review by Ellen S. Jaffe
Is friendship only as deep as your pocket?  What happens when you believe you are wealthy in friends as well as money – and then these friends desert you in your hour of need?  Timon of Athens, at Stratford, raises these questions, important for our time as well as Shakespeare’s. Timon is one of Shakespeare’s least performed plays; some scholars even think that the play was not written entirely by Shakespeare but in collaboration with another writer, perhaps Thomas Middleton. It has, however, been revived in the 20th and now 21st centuries, often set in modern dress, as in this production.    Photo by Cylla von Tydemann

      the cast of TIMON of ATHENS on stage

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“DRACULA”; like Cher, Elvis, or ‘Trump’, the name is eponymous. Reply

Review by Danny Gaisin

Bram Stoker’s iconic 1897 Vampire story has given birth to countless Halloween costumes, non-quotes (I’ve come to suck your blood) and encouraged the formal wearing of capes (black, with red lining). Liz Lochhead, Scotland’s poet Laureate had re-written the original Stoker take on the 15th century Eastern European ruler Vlad Tepes, whose draconian rule incorporated impalement. Historically, his severity was an effective deterrent! Briefly, the plot deals with a Transylvanian who wishes to migrate to England in search of fresh virginal plasma to maintain his Nosferatu-ish eternal (& nocturnal) banquets.  Photo by Emily Cooper

Cherissa Richards about to nosh on Ben Sanders’ neck!

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Stratford’s “BAKKHAI” depicts searing conflict & tragedy Reply

Review by Ellen S. Jaffe
Bakkhai (aka Bacchae) by Euripides, presented at Stratford in a new translation & adaptation by renowned Canadian poet and writer Anne Carson, is a very powerful play. Indeed, it has been considered one of the world’s most powerful tragedies since its initial performance at the Dionysia drama festival in Athens, 405 B.C. E., at which Euripides was awarded a posthumous award.  Euripides (c. 486 B.C.E.-406 B.C.E.) is also the author of Medea, The Trojan Women, Elektra, and Iphigenia at Aulis, among many other works. Note that the plays I mentioned are not only about extreme situations, they also have women as central characters.

   Lucy Peacock & dance chorus members       Photo by Cylla von Tydemann

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