Exploring the light and darkness of Shakespeare
Perchance Theatre’s new season opens with an unexpected star
There’s a creepy side of Shakespeare — a side full of witches and ghosts and blood and violence — that Perchance Theatre wants to explore. With you. In the dark.
They’ve got the perfect venue for it: an Elizabethan-era stage, out in the woods of Cupids in the nighttime, with no lights around. It’s how they plan to bring you their version of “Macbeth” this summer, and they’re hoping you’re up for it.
“We’re really hoping audiences will be interested in that ghostly, superstitious storytelling that the theatre, with its woods surrounding it and lack of life and excellent potential creep factor brings,” Perchance’s artistic director Danielle Irvine says. “We really want to embrace that space and put it through its potential at night.”
Starring Paul Wilson as Macbeth, Janet Edmonds as Lady Macbeth and Steve O’Connell as Macduff, “Macbeth,” Shakespeare’s famous bloody thriller, will be previewed July 24, then officially open the next day.
First, though, Perchance will explore the lighter side of Shakespeare, with “Much Ado About Nothing,” a comedy about love, cynicism and trickery, set (in this version of it), during the Second World War.
“It’s a wartime play in its writing, and it goes naturally with the war-time director Jeannette Lambermont-Morey is choosing,” Irvine says. “In that era, women were really known as smart, strong, sexy and funny — think Katharine Hepburn — and that really suits the ladies in this show.”
Leading the “Much Ado” cast is Irvine’s “wildcard,” standup comic John Sheehan, in his first Shakespearean role since 1999. Irvine had known Sheehan as a comedian and TV actor and found out about his love of Shakespeare through someone else.
“I was teaching Shakespeare to Grade 8s out in Harbour Grace and there was this sweet and talented young girl there, 13 years old, and she blew my mind. I said, ‘How do you know so much about Shakespeare?’ and she said, ‘My dad loves him.’ I asked her who her dad was and she said, ‘John Sheehan.’
“He’s fantastic. Of course, he’s exceedingly funny, but he really gets Shakespeare, the language and the humour and the drive of it. It’s a natural and unexpected fit, and we’re having a blast working together.”
Sheehan, who stars as Benedick opposite Alexis Koetting’s Beatrice in the production, says he never imagined doing Shakespeare again, let alone his favourite play.
“Benedick, the male lead, was a character I had dreamed about playing, but long since given up, thinking I wouldn’t be doing this sort of thing again,” Sheehan says. “I jumped. Benedick is a fun character, but he’s also a rogue in that he’s non-conventional. He can laugh and pull pranks with the best of them, but he’s an accomplished soldier who prides honour above all.
“I started off being extremely nervous, having to share the stage with the talent Perchance has, but everyone has been fantastic, and now I just can’t wait to open.”
“Much Ado About Nothing” premiered last weekend and will run with “Macbeth” until the end of August.
Perchance will also present its regular “Muses and Minstrels” series each Sunday until Aug. 23, featuring a short variety show of talent with performers such as Sheehan, Wonderbolt Circus, singer Calvin Powell, storytellers and more.
This year, the theatre company is making things a little more convenient for audiences, having partnered with A Plus Taxi and Tours to offer a pickup bus service out to Cupids from various points in downtown St. John’s.
and “Much Ado About Nothing” are $35 regular admission and $30 for seniors and students, and tickets for the “Muses and Minstrels” series are $20. All are available through Perchance’s website at www.perchancetheatre.com.
Also on the website is a series of hilarious “Swear Like Shakespeare” videos starring Paul Wilson as Shakespeare in modern-day situations.
“We’re hoping we can pique people’s curiosity and awaken their sense of play,” Irvine says, adding Newfoundlanders are no strangers to the creative curse word. “We’re having so much fun.”