Epic version of Man and Superman leads Shaw 2019 lineup
For his third season as artistic director, Tim Carroll says he’s “going back to some of our core values” at the Shaw Festival — with his specific twist.
Since taking over from former artistic director Jackie Maxwell in 2016, “TC,” as he’s known to staff and within the Niagara-on-the-Lake community, has instituted what he calls “two-way theatre” in the festival, opting for more unconventional Shaw titles, integrated audience participation, and immersive experiences. In 2019, there will still be plenty that follows that reasoning, but according to Carroll, it follows a long history at the Shaw Festival.
A showpiece of the season is such a blend of old and new — the 1903 Shaw play Man and Superman, last done in 2004, will be performed in its entirety including the often-cut third act Don Juan in Hell, which puts the entire production at a running time of five hours. This special event will be directed by Kimberly Rampersad, an up-and-comer at the Shaw Festival who recently opened Shaw’s O’Flaherty V.C., and will run for only 17 performances, opening next August, featuring a catered lunch in the middle.
Carroll says the idea was inspired by the success of Stephen Fry’s Mythos trilogy this year, in particular the demand for the “marathon” runs, which packaged the three shows in one and a half days. But the Shaw has had some success doing the full play in the past — 2004’s production had several performances with Don Juan in Hell included — and Carroll was similarly impressed by Maxwell’s programming of Noel Coward’s entire cycle of 10 one-act plays Tonight at 8:30 in 2009.
“People really like the immersive experience. And since we are a destination theatre, (and) the majority of our audience have to make the investment of time and distance to get here, it seems to me that that audience would be well-suited for something that will last their whole day,” he says.
Once again, a murder mystery will return to the Royal George Theatre — a tradition established under Maxwell’s predecessor Christopher Newton — with Patrick Hamilton’s 1929 thriller Rope, directed by recent Toronto Theatre Critics Award winner Jani Lauzon.
And Carroll’s choice of musical continues in his desire to stage Golden Age musicals, taking “old war horses and brushing the dust off.” In this case, it’s Brigadoon, the love story that takes place in a mythical Scottish town that appears one day every 100 years, by the duo behind My Fair Lady, Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe. Brigadoon will be directed by Calgary’s Glynis Leyshon.
Carroll himself will take to the Festival Theatre with the North American premiere of The Ladykillers by Graham Linehan, based on William Rose’s 1955 film (remade in 2004 by the Coen Brothers). The comedy, about an old woman who haphazardly thwarts a heist planned by a motley crew of robbers renting a room in her home, premiered in the UK in 2011 starring Peter Capaldi.
An unexpected pairing to that “out and out comedy” for Carroll next year is Howard Barker’s Victory, which comes with a warning on the release: “Not for the squeamish.” According to Carroll, Barker is Britain’s “best kept secret,” whose violent, abrasive style is more at home in Europe (where Carroll has directed Victory before) than his homeland across the pond or here in Canada.
“I expect audiences will be extremely challenged by the piece, and it’s important that the people coming to the play know that,” Carroll says.
Other works in 2019 Shaw Festival season include The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis, adapted by local playwright Anna Chatterton and directed by Christine Brubaker; George Bernard Shaw’s Getting Married directed by Tanja Jacobs; Hanna Moscovitch’s The Russian Play directed by Diana Donnelly as the Shaw’s lunchtime one-act offering; Cyrano de Bergerac translated and adapted by Kate Hennig and directed by Chris Abraham in his Shaw Festival debut; The Glass Menagerie directed by Hungary’s Laszlo Berczes; and Mae West’s play Sex directed by Peter Hinton (West, as Carroll learned, was the most produced female playwright of her time).
Members of the Shaw Festival will also get the chance to see an early version of Why Not Theatre’s epic Mahabharata: Beginnings, adapted and directed by Ravi Jain, before the full production appears at the Shaw Festival in 2020. Also, due to popular demand, there will be a second production in the Shaw’s winter season to accompany Carroll’s A Christmas Carol — Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn, directed by Hennig.