Sunday, August 27, 2017

Stratford 2017

Last month, I emerged, blinking in the light, full of joy, from seeing a fabulous musical - and found myself in Times Square, surrounded by a trillion people and honking cars. This weekend, I emerged from seeing a fabulous musical and found myself in beautiful downtown Stratford, surrounded by swans floating on the River Thames, fields, gorgeous old Ontario houses, towering old trees, fabulous gardens, almost no one. That's the Stratford experience - incredible theatre in the middle of cornfields.

On Saturday morning, I got the Stratford express bus - $10 each way, from downtown Toronto directly to the three theatres, about two hours. My friend Carol was waiting. Carol and her sister Mary-Jane took my U of T class twice - wonderful writers, both of them, and also inventors of a clever game. But eventually they both moved out here, and finally, I had a chance to visit. Carol lives in one of Stratford's many perfect Victorian houses. We had a chance to get caught up in the sun before I went to the Festival Theatre to see a matinee of my favourite musical, Guys and Dolls. It was written in 1950, a very special year as far as I'm concerned, a year that produced a LOT of great stuff. And it's just the best musical ever written, brilliant book, music, concept - but especially the music, one glorious song after another, I had to restrain myself from singing along at the top of my lungs. "When you see a guy/reach for stars in the sky/you can bet that he's doing it for some doll..." So so good. I was in heaven.

Out into a mild August afternoon in this lovely little town, back to Carol's for a glass of rosé, then to her sister's for dinner. MJ and her husband live in a Victorian mansion; we ate out by the swimming pool surrounded by flowers, and I told her it was like being on the Riviera. Another catch up there. And then to Bakkhai, a new translation of Euripides' The Bacchae by Canadian poet Anne Carson. The production could not have been further from Guys and Dolls - and was terrific. Greek tragedies are almost impossible to pull off, and this one is about a mother who is roaming the hills with her wild feminist sisters and eventually rips her son to bits. She appears with pieces of his body and carries his head around, before she realizes whom she has killed. Not your everyday kitchen sink drama, but beautifully done with haunting music by the very talented Veda Hille from Vancouver.

And then out into the still Stratford night, to walk home to Carol's elegant spare bedroom. Lucky lucky me.

This morning, I bought sourdough bread and cheese at the little Stratford market, and friend Lani appeared for lunch in Carol's pretty garden. Lan and I have been friends since 1975, acting together in Vancouver; recently she and her husband Maurice moved from Stratford to Ingersoll, about 40 minutes away. She was coming in to have lunch with me and Carol, we'd see a show, and then drive back for me to spend the night in their new home and meet their new dog.

We saw what is meant to be a groundbreaking new play, The Breathing Hole, about the life of the Inuit in northern Canada, ranging in 2 acts over 500 years, with, as the chief character, an imaginatively made polar bear activated by a man underneath the costume. Very evocative. But the play, unfortunately, though with an interesting first act about the Inuit experience, fell apart with cheap choices in the second. Very disappointing, though the polar bear was almost worth the price of admission.

And then zipping through the green fields of southern Ontario to the small town of Ingersoll, pop. 12,500, where my friends now live with their dog, Mr. Hapi, who was a street mutt in Taiwan, hit by a car and crippled, rescued by a wealthy Taiwanese woman who takes in stray dogs, neuters them, heals and trains them and finds them owners. This one went to a shelter in Hamilton where he was found by my friends. He only has 3 legs, bounces happily along, and is the luckiest of dogs, in this house which overlooks a park by a river. Lots of people are moving from Toronto to Stratford because they can get more house for the money; Lani and Mo moved here for the same reason. They certainly got a lot more house, and greenery too.

The air, right now, is redolent of skunk.


  1. What a wonderful weekend! I have the text of Carson's translation and can (sort of) imagine it staged...

  2. Oh Theresa you're amazing. What was extraordinary about the production was the music - that the chorus of women, instead of chanting or intoning those difficult Greek sentences, sang them, often while dancing or swaying or in a circle. It was quite magical and worked really well. A difficult play, very well done.