• Follow us

Entertainment

Here’s why classic theatre like The Horse and His Boy and The Front Page needs a helping hand | The Star

New play development is a major part of the Canadian theatre ecology, ensuring that new voices and new stories are always coming across Toronto stages. And though new plays also premiere in the summer theatre festival world, there is an emphasis on classics, particularly at the Stratford and Shaw Festivals: known titles, famous authors and (likely decades-long) connections that an audience member brings with them into the theatre.

But, by nature, classics are products of their time, so what happens when a piece from the past clashes with the present in distracting, unhelpful and sometimes downright offensive ways?

This summer, the Shaw and the Stratford festivals have both brought in Canadian playwrights to adapt problematic texts from the past.

At the Shaw, writer Anna Chatterton joined forces with director Christine Brubaker to tackle The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis, continuing the Shaw’s exploration of The Chronicles of Narnia for young audiences.

It’s the fifth in the seven-book series, the only one set entirely in Narnia, and follows two young people journeying across a land on the brink of war — a story ripe for theatrical invention. Except Lewis’s descriptions of the northern land of Narnia versus the southern area Calormen are infused by less-than-subtle references to Western and Middle Eastern cultures, depicting Narnians as moral and independent (and fair-skinned) and Calormen as cruel slave masters (and dark-skinned).

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW

“The book is complicated,” Brubaker says with a sigh. “I would tell people what I was working on and I would get, ‘Ooh, gosh’ … But it’s funny, I grew up with those books. I was brought up as a very devout Christian. It had a lot of meaning for me. So I was very interested in pushing on that meaning.”

Brubaker’s first decision was to assemble a team of women artists to counter the male paradigm of the story; it’s called The Horse and His Boy after all, despite having a strong female lead. That team included playwright Chatterton, who abandoned an attempt to read the book as a child when no female characters appeared in the first chapter. But she was glad to revisit the series.

“Language-wise, I love how C.S. Lewis created the way Narnians speak, it’s almost Shakespearean, so I tried to stay true to that. But it was obvious what we were going to get rid of right away,” she says.

Adds Brubaker: “We immediately took out any reference to skin colour and dislocated (the characters) from some of those tropes. If the line was ‘I can tell you’re from the North from the way you look’ it was ‘I can tell you’re from the North from your spirit.’ Looking at the book there are all sorts of references to the orientalism of turbans, samovars and sabres, so we placed it in a world that was more fantastical and less specific.” .

Almost contrarily, Chatterton says her challenge was to address the broadness in the language. “It was a stripping away and then an adding to, finding new ways to talk about the North and the South, and trying not to make statements about the Southern type of people or the Northern type of people, and describe people on an individual basis.”

One could imagine that adapting the story from a novel into a play would offer Brubaker and Chatterton more chances to change aspects of the original that haven’t aged well and, in some instances, this is true. Certain cross-gender casting choices needed to be made, given the ensemble of actors available, including casting Jenny L. Wright as the Christ-like lion Aslan (whom Brubaker says is referred to not as “she” but “they”), as well as changing a king to a queen and the wise male figure to a woman.

Michael Healey doesn’t have that luxury at the Stratford Festival, where he’s in rehearsals for the comedy The Front Page with director Graham Abbey, opening in August.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW

The original 1928 script by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur was a Broadway hit, eventually turned into the beloved film My Girl Friday, but the story about a journalist and his editor harbouring a wrongfully accused escapee (a white man charged with killing a Black police officer) has some glaring gender and racial politics that Healey says a 2019 audience wouldn’t forgive.

Abbey and Healey both agreed it was a good play that needed some overhauling, which makes Healey’s task more complicated.

“The first job for me as an adapter when it’s a play like this, a play that works and has worked for 90 years, is to not f--k it up,” he says. “It’s a Lamborghini, it has a mysterious engine. I can’t wreck that engine.”

Furthermore, the play’s time period is the source of part of its comedy. “Those guys of that period get to have both things, ‘It’s hilarious that he just made a joke at that woman’s expense and aren’t those newspapermen terrible?’ … It’s still set when it’s set, so it’s a racist and misogynist time, so how do you, for an audience, describe those things but describe them critically?”

One change is transforming the editor role from a man to a woman, played by Maev Beaty, adding some back story to make it plausible for a woman in 1928 to be running a newspaper. In the original script, there are no female reporters or perspectives from the Black community, so Healey’s script makes space for that representation as well.

“But every time you build more story lines, for me it’s like putting another five pounds in the trunk of the Lamborghini, right? You have to be careful,” he says.

The second job of the adapter, according to Healey, is “to contain in it an argument for (the story’s) contemporary usefulness.” And for him, this is the easiest part of adapting The Front Page.

“A play about why a strong and independent press is useful, particularly when people in power are thugs, it’s a bit of a gimme. As soon as Trump labelled the press enemies of the people, this play became relevant again. Nobody’s morally pure and there’s so much comedy to be had there. But the overall message is, these are bums and you need these bums.”

Likewise Brubaker wanted to stick to what she considered the heart of The Horse and His Boy: “To me, it was a young boy following his impulses and a girl who leads him the way. He doesn’t know where he’s going, he just knows he needs to move and change, and in doing that he finds himself.

“Anna wrote a beautiful line, ‘Who are you when you travel? What do you leave behind? Who are you when you travel? What parts of you do you find?’ It’s the heartbeat of the show in many ways.”

Jay Turvey as Bree, Matt Nethersole as Shasta and Genny Sermonia as the tail with the cast of The Horse and His Boy at the Shaw Festival.Ben Carlson and Maev Beaty star in the Stratford Festival’s The Front Page.

There’s room for old and new stories to be told alongside each other at festivals like Stratford and Shaw, but some stories need some help to get their hearts beating again.

The Horse and His Boy is at the Festival Theatre, 10 Queen’s Parade, Niagara-on-the-Lake, until July 21. See shawfest.com for information. The Front Page is at the Festival Theatre, 55 Queen St., Stratford, from July 30 to Oct. 25. See stratfordfestival.ca for information.

Carly Maga is a Toronto-based theatre critic and a freelance contributor for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @RadioMaga

Read More



Leave A Comment

More News

Just Jared

Riverdale's Vanessa Morgan is Engaged to Michael Kopech! 2019-07-03 19:47:53Congratulations are in order for Vanessa Morgan and Michael Kopech! The 27-year-old Riverdale actress and the 23-year-old baseball pitcher for the Chi

Did Nike Purposely Manufacture the Colin Kaepernick Betsy 2019-07-03 19:33:58This Shark Tank star believes Nike knew exactly what they were doing when they pulled the controversial Betsy Ross flag shoe, which Colin Kaepernick c

Celebs Applaud Halle Bailey's Casting as Ariel in 2019-07-03 19:17:04Celebs are reacting to Halle Bailey (not Halle BERRY) snagging the role of Ariel in Disney’s upcoming live-action The Little Mermaid. The 19-yea

Jenelle Evans Is Getting Custody of Her Children 2019-07-03 19:14:48Jenelle Evans will regain custody of her children. The 27-year-old Teen Mom star, who lost custody of her children back in May because of an incident

Liam Payne Drops His Capsule Collection With 'Hugo' 2019-07-03 19:01:46Liam Payne has teamed up with Hugo for his debut fashion campaign! The collection was unveiled at an event during Berlin Fashion Week tonight (July 3)

Rick & Kathy Hilton Sued for Allegedly Owing 2019-07-03 18:50:05Rick and Kathy Hilton, Paris and Nicky Hilton‘s parents, are being sued for allegedly owing their housekeeper thousands of dollars in unpaid wag

Zendaya Says Her Face 'Freezes' Before On-Camera Interviews 2019-07-03 18:34:07Zendaya has the perfect backdrop for these gorgeous photos during her trip to Paris, France on Tuesday night (July 2). The 22-year-old Spider-Man: Far

Sky Ferreira Sides With Taylor Swift in Scooter 2019-07-03 18:14:33Sky Ferreira is on Taylor Swift‘s side after she expressed how upset she is that Scooter Braun now owns her master recordings. The 26-year-old s

Halle Bailey, Not Halle Berry, Is Playing Ariel 2019-07-03 18:10:24Guys, it’s Halle BAILEY, not Halle BERRY, who is playing Ariel in Disney’s upcoming live-action The Little Mermaid. Fans have been confusi

Justin Bieber Joins Wife Hailey For Lunch Date 2019-07-03 18:03:19Justin and wife Hailey Bieber arrive with big smiles on their faces for a lunch date on Wednesday afternoon (July 3) in Beverly Hills, Calif. The twos

Dean McDermott Opens Up About His Gay Son 2019-07-03 18:01:08Dean McDermott is sharing his love for his oldest son, Jack, right in the wake of Pride Month. The 52-year-old actor spoke about his 20-year-old son d

Emma Roberts & Garrett Hedlund Catch a Flight 2019-07-03 17:29:02Emma Roberts and Garrett Hedlund couple up for a flight at LAX Airport! The 28-year-old American Horror Story actress and the 34-year-old Triple Front

Arts & Entertainment -

Why didn’t Disney just explain why it cut 2019-07-03 19:25:00Disney is not a company known for explaining itself, but why on earth it would do a good thing in a way that makes it look shady really is beyond me.

Halle Bailey will play Ariel in the live-action 2019-07-03 18:15:00Halle Bailey is your new Ariel. On Wednesday, Disney announced that the singer and actress has been cast as the lead of its live-action adaptation of

Taylor Swift, entitled millionaire, is the labor activist 2019-07-03 16:55:00Taylor Swift, one of pop music’s most polarizing superstars, is enmeshed in another very public battle, and the world has promptly, predictably,

Review: ‘Stranger Things 3’ finds new horrors at 2019-07-03 16:30:00Demogorgons. Mad scientists. A parallel universe. It’s seemed that Hawkins, Ind., had seen it all over the past two seasons of “Stranger T

Reviews: Sylvester Stallone and Dave Bautista in ‘Escape 2019-07-03 16:20:00'Escape Plan: The Extractors' In 2013, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger co-starred in “Escape Plan,” a two-fisted prison pic

Review: Before RuPaul, the documentary ‘Paris Is Burning’ 2019-07-03 15:40:00Over the past decade, Jennie Livingston’s landmark 1990 documentary “Paris Is Burning” has had a renaissance of sorts, thanks in no

In action-comedy ‘Stuber,’ Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista 2019-07-03 14:55:00Theirs was a gentle friendship forged in the cozy confines of an eco-friendly Nissan Leaf, the electric car that serves as a roving setting for broman

‘Toy Story 2’ casting-couch outtake is not so 2019-07-03 14:30:00The far-reaching #MeToo and Time’s Up movements have hit the Walt Disney Co. yet again, resulting in the reported deletion of a 20-year-old cast

Best live music in L.A.: Nile Rodgers, Chrissie 2019-07-03 14:10:00Celebrate the long weekend in style with a full slate of July 4th festivities and gigs from hometown icons. July 4th Fireworks Spectacular with Nile R

Review: Getty Villa’s ‘Buried by Vesuvius’ is exquisite 2019-07-03 13:55:00When Mt. Vesuvius blew its top in AD 79, the now-fabled volcanic eruption began a winding sequence of events that, exactly 1,900 years later, heralded

ASAP Rocky is behind bars in Sweden after 2019-07-03 13:50:00ASAP Rocky was arrested early Wednesday in Stockholm, Sweden, on suspicion of gross assault after a Sunday altercation that was captured in part on vi

Dance studios are the latest pushed out by 2019-07-03 12:30:00For a room full of teenage tap dancers, the studio at Dance Arts Academy was surprisingly quiet. About 40 dancers were sitting on the wooden floor, ea

Reuters: Entertainment News

Japan sending patent officials to U.S. over Kim 2019-07-02 02:39:26Japan is to send patent officials to the United States to discuss the flap over Kim Kardashian’s Kimono brand underwear, the trade minister said

Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber at odds in 2019-07-01 21:28:25Pop superstar Taylor Swift has attacked Justin Bieber's manager for buying her music catalog, prompting Bieber to come to his defense in a heated onl

Lady Gaga, Letitia Wright among hundreds invited to 2019-07-01 16:55:15The group that hands out the Oscars said on Monday it had invited 842 new members from 59 countries including Lady Gaga, Sterling K. Brown and Letitia

Back to black for Christian Dior at sumptuous 2019-07-01 16:37:09With a series of all-black bustier gowns that would not have looked out of place on Grace Kelly, a vintage mood reigned on the catwalk at Christian Di

Giambattista Valli skips the runway for floral fashion 2019-07-01 15:21:27Known for his ultra-feminine, silhouette-driven gowns, couturier Giambattista Valli shook up Haute Couture fashion week in Paris on Monday with a bota

British singer Cliff Richard demands change to sex 2019-07-01 08:48:25British singer Cliff Richard joined forces with other high profile figures in the media on Monday to demand that those people accused of sexual offens

Indian actress draws fire for quitting over Islamic 2019-07-01 08:40:41A Muslim actress' decision to quit Bollywood, saying acting was taking her away from her faith, has triggered a backlash in India from fellow actors

Kylie Minogue sparkles on Glastonbury stage 14 years 2019-06-30 15:14:34Kylie Minogue delighted a huge crowd at Glastonbury with hits including "Spinning Around", "Shocked" and "Better the Devil You Know", 14 years a

David Attenborough thanks Glastonbury for plastic bottle ban 2019-06-30 13:41:14The world renowned naturalist David Attenborough appeared on the stage at Glastonbury on Sunday to praise its ban on single-use plastic bottles, delig

Box Office: 'Toy Story 4' bests 'Annabelle Comes 2019-06-30 13:02:40LOS ANGELES, (Variety.com) - Woody, Buzz Lightyear and Forky are still ruling the box office. Despite solid debuts from newcomers "Annabelle Comes Ho

Glastonbury's plastic bottle ban tested by hot weather 2019-06-30 10:14:24Britain's Glastonbury Festival is greener and cleaner after banning the sale of single-use plastic bottles in the hope of inspiring long-term change

Stormzy's stab-vest for landmark Glastonbury gig designed by 2019-06-30 08:33:20A Union Jack emblazoned stab-proof vest worn by British rapper Stormzy for his history-making headline performance at the Glastonbury Music Festival w

TORONTO STAR | ENTERTAINMENT

Vinay Menon: Scooter Braun feud is part of 2019-07-03 13:28:23Even as her incredible talent drives her higher into the stratosphere, Taylor Swift insists others are holding her down, writes Vinay Menon.

Lil Nas X’s Old Town Road becomes longest-running 2019-07-03 12:07:22“Old Town Road” stayed at No.1 for its 13th consecutive week, beating out “See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth, &ld

Vancouver symphony’s park shows had delights and a 2019-07-03 12:00:00Becoming the backup band for a drag show is a surprising moment in the life of a classical musician, but summer is the time for such surprises, Willia

Roxodus music festival cancelled due to ill-prepared event 2019-07-03 09:28:21Organizers say the venue at Edenvale Airport “battled tremendous rainy weather” over the past several months, soaking the grounds and maki

BoJack Horseman creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg shines darkly in 2019-07-03 08:27:20The book proves Bob-Waksberg can conjure many modern miseries beyond those of a talking horse.

Controversial anti-abortion film Unplanned to hit more than 2019-07-03 08:15:19Top film critics on movie review aggregation websites Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes have panned it, with many calling it propaganda. But audience sco

Jason Priestley leaves it on the dance floor 2019-07-03 06:00:00

Waterloo-raised comic Courtney Gilmour, born without hands and 2019-07-03 00:00:00Gilmour was the first female comic to win the Just for Laughs homegrown competition in Montreal in 2017.

Stranger Things is back. Here’s where Season 2 2019-07-02 21:40:14The Netflix series is steeped in nostalgia for the Spielbergian comforts of a suburban past but is really about the perpetual trauma of characters who

This year’s Toronto Fringe Festival has a Filipino 2019-07-02 17:59:11Annual fest includes the Filipinx shows Through the Bamboo, Tita Jokes and Monica vs. the internet, while Kanto by Tita Flips will serve food at the f

Wynonna Earp finally gets green light for fourth 2019-07-02 16:37:10

Does Mischa Barton-Perez Hilton fight The Hills reboot 2019-07-02 16:13:10The enmity between actress Mischa Barton and celebrity blogger Perez Hilton captured in The Hills reboot hearkened to the often relentlessly cruel cel


Disclaimer and Notice:WorldProNews.com is not responsible of these news or any information published on this website.