Following up on last summer’s fantastic viewing of the Canadian Stage performance of Macbeth in Toronto’s High Park, we knew that returning for more Shakespeare in the Park would be a high priority on this summer’s Love-to-do-List! So, on Wednesday night, we took in a performance of Titus Andronicus. We had such a great time, and we enjoyed the play and the performances so much, that we headed right back out on Thursday for the just-as-wonderful (“wonderful, most wonderful, and out of all whooping!’) As You Like It.
If you thought the very bloody Titus Andronicus wasn’t for kids, you’d be mistaken. Bea and Tobes went into the play knowing very little about the plot. Bea had read, in one of her Horrible Histories books, that this had been one of Queen Elizabeth’s favourite plays, though, which excited her to no end. Still, before things began, I made sure to give them a bit of a synopsis of what was about to happen, particularly the amputation of limbs and the baking of men into meat pies that was to come.
This didn’t seem to phase them in the least. They’d seen Luke Skywalker lose a limb courtesy of his father, after all. And, as I was telling them about the bit of revenge-cannibalism at the end of the play, the kids, very happily, if rather vaguely, referred to having read about a similar “feast” in one of their Greek mythology books [Thyestes and Atreus]. In fact, they became so excited about the “stubs and pies” that we decided to place bets on how many amputations or “stabs” there would be during the night’s performance.
Gruesome? Perhaps. But, then, stage violence must always involve stage craft. And Titus, of course, is a stage play which makes us extremely conscious of this distinction between reality and entertainment. The red ribbons the director chose to represent “blood” and the leather cuffs covering hands to “represent” amputation made everything symbolic, bearable. The kids became much more interested in the politics of the play, particularly how Titus’ former enemies return to aid his son in avenging father and sister.
This isn’t really a “review” of the play, but I will say that the performances were all quite strong and engaging, and the way in which the play was pared down for a 90 minute performance was effective and deft. Knowing little of the plot going in, the kids easily understood what was going on. And, when asked to list their “favourite” performances, they named practically every person in the cast.
The kids were so excited that, as we were walking out of the amphitheatre, they asked to return for As You Like It the next evening. And, so we thought, why not?
On Wednesday, because of our schedules and a bit of anxiety over my own limbs, [I still need to be a bit careful as I recover from having brokenmy hand], we had “splurged” for reserved priority seating [it’s a $25 donation for each adult, but kids are free]. And we purchased a fabulous picnic from Bread & Roses [Bloor/Runnymede]. The cushioned seats were amazing and the food was brilliant!
On Thursday, because we had more time to spare, the kids and I arrived when the gates opened at 6 [play’s at 8], dropped the suggested contribution in the box, and ventured in to plop our big striped blanket down in the grass just in front of where we’d been seated the evening before. We packed an equally brilliant supper from home and lazed about on the blankets to eat and count the dragonflies that buzzed by from time to time. [Oh, and they sell take-home “cushions” at the concession stand for $7 or 2 for $10. This year’s cushionsare purple – which is an added bonus! Oh, yes, the cushions have now been kid- and parent- tested and approved! And we’ll be able to bring them back with us for the summer of 2015 and summers to come!]
Now, reading and illustrating As You Like It had been a huge part of our Christmas break, so the kids were super excited to see one of their favourite comedies. Moreso, they were psyched to see how their favourite performers from Titus would reappear in the comedy! Seriously, if you’re going to take the kids to see one play in High Park, you should really go to both, because it’s an amazing experience to see the kids actively comparing the transformations of their favourite actors from role to role as well as the differences between those characters and between the two plots. Comparing the tragedy and the comedy becomes a natural part of enjoying the “double feature,” so to speak. Bea’s favourite mute, Lavinia [Chala Hunter] transformed into a talkative, strong Celia, for instance. And, Toby was tickled to see that Jacques was played by a woman [Jan Alexandra Smith], the same woman who had played Marcus the evening before! Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg….I’ll just say that “This was awesome,” was the overwhelming kid-response to the play and to the double-evening as a whole.
So, people, grab your picnic baskets and your blankets, and take your kids to see Shakespeare in High Park, not just once, but twice!!! There are still several weeks of Can-Stage performances left! Click on the image below for more info, and get ye to the park!