Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Vacation to the north, part 4

Thursday & Friday, 8/12-8/13
We took a train from Toronto to Stratford to see two plays at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. The train station at Stratford was just like the kind of quaint little small-town station you might see in a 1940's movie. We got in at 1 in the afternoon with just enough time to drop our stuff at the Queen's Inn and hustle off to see Jacques Brel Is Alive and Living in Paris, a revue (which had a long off-Broadway run in the late 60's) of theatrical cabaret songs by Belgian composer Brel. Canadian actor Brent Carver, winner of a Tony Award as Best Actor for Kiss of the Spider Woman, was the star, though the entire cast of four (below) was fine.

The Queen's Inn was as charming and quaint as the train station, as was the entire town. We spent much of Thursday and Friday walking along the lovely Avon river, watching the swans, lovely from afar, a bit scary on land, and shopping along the town's main drag. The grounds of the Festival Theatre were also quite beautiful, with a large and colorful garden out front. We spent a fair amount of time in the Theatre Shop, filled not just with knick-knacks and t-shirts, but also lots of books (Shakespeare- and theatre-related) and DVDs.

Friday morning, we went on a backstage tour of the Festival Theatre, the main theater of the four in town at which the plays were going on. That night, we saw Christopher Plummer in The Tempest. While the play is not one of Shakespeare's best, this was a grand production, and the first time I've seen a Shakespeare play in which every line was articulated clearly by every actor. The acoustics in the lovely theater were surely partly responsible, but so was the professional cast. Plummer, at 81, was grand, showing no loss of energy or abilities, and the effects and lighting were superb.

Saturday was a travel day, with an early train back to Toronto, and a bus from there to Niagara, then a drive home, arriving around 10:00 Saturday night. A memorable trip--I was glad to have seen the Falls, though I'm not sure I'd want to go back, but return trips to both Toronto and the Festival are possibilities.