Monday, 20 August 2012

Recap: Medieval Feast and Hamlet

Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan presents Hamlet

     This is going to make me sound really old, but kids these days have no appreciation for Shakespeare and his works. I can't blame them though. In my experience (with some fact checking with friends) a lot of students are subjected to learning his works through a grueling monotone hour long verbal read-a-long while sitting in the most uncomfortable desks and the teacher will call on that one unfortunate sleeping student to ask them about iambic pentameters.  

     But I managed to come out of high school with a love and appreciation for Shakespeare's works because I was fortunate enough (for the most part) to have awesome English teachers. They taught his plays the way that they were meant to be appreciated - by acting them out, doing the actions, accents and dressing up in crazy costumes (the best day ever was the one spent wearing sheet toga's around). 

     So after high school I had to get my Shakespeare fix somewhere. Luckily where I live, every summer they erect a massive tent right by the river to play host to two amazing Shakespeare productions every year (usually one is a comedy, the other is a tragedy). After my friend Nicole took me to my first showing, I've been going back every year since. Most recently I've taken to attending the Medieval feast that happens right before a show.  This year featured Hamlet and As You Like It.

      The Medieval Feast
      Every year the menu changes. But what doesn't is the the novelty of eating with nothing but your hands! No utensils - proper mothers everywhere would faint at the thought! It's so much fun though, and it's entertainment in itself. Don't worry, mint water is provided to wash your hands in between courses to keep everything relatively grease free. 

     This year we had a mix of breads with butter (no knives, so you have to fashion a scoop out of the crust of the bread). A new item was an onion beef broth with a biscuit - which was so delicious, I hope they keep it for next year. Then a salad course! I love how they do salad; they use a whole leaf of romaine as the base, and place onion, celery, parsley, cucumber and radishes in it, topped with a raspberry vinaigrette dressing. This is followed by the main course of a whole roasted chicken, slices of roast beef with parsnips, carrots and roasted baby potatoes. 

     Taking apart the chicken is by far the best part. Although the guy down the table from us had his Swiss army knife out and was slicing off slabs with ease for his group - which is absolutely no fun. 

     Dessert consisted of a platter of mixed fruits (berries, watermelon), and this heavy deliciously spiced, raisin laden bread pudding with evaporated milk. I was pretty much full to bursting at this rate. 

      Unfortunately there's no pictures of the awesome meal as I was busy stuffing my face and my hands were super greasy....

     After Dinner Entertainment
     Our local Society of Creative Anachronism puts on the after dinner pre-show entertainment. What they're famous for is showing the types of hand crafted armour, and sword fighting. It always gets the crowd riled up, and yelling for kills! 

     They also lead some willing volunteers in a traditional dance, that ends up getting faster and crazier as the music progresses. 

     The Show
Claudius (Brother to late King Hamlet, now the new King) played by: Robert Benz
Hamlet (son of late King Hamlet, nephew of Claudius) played by: Greg Ochitwa
Gertrude (The Queen and mother of Hamlet) played by: Cheryl Jack
Ophelia (love interest of Hamlet) played by: Jamie Lee Shebelski
Full Cast HERE

     The directors have their own take on the play and what kind of setting to use. Sometimes they will use a more traditional set if it enhances the play such as the ancient Rome time period that was maintained for Antony and Cleopatra a few years ago. But for Hamlet they took on a more 1950's greaser gang feel to the characters and costume (but after finding out As You Like It was Steam Punk themed, I regret not going to that one). They stick fairly true to the script - and the language can be at times hard to decipher - but a combination of props, the excellent actors in their expressions and actions, the story becomes crystal clear.

     If you don't know the story of Hamlet, I'll try and keep this as spoiler free as possible. 
     Elder King Hamlet of Denmark has passed away, and his wife Queen Gertrude has remarried his brother Claudius. Hamlet distraught by his father's death and his mother's seemingly quick marriage - is haunted by his father's ghost who reveals secrets to Hamlet which sends Hamlet into a downward spiral of insanity fueled by vengeance. His erratic behavior doesn't escape the notice of his family. Tensions rise as accusations fly and it all boils down to a climatic bloody confrontation. 
     Making his debut Greg Ochitwa was given a huge responsibility as the lead Hamlet and he did an excellent job! Perfectly brooding in the beginning, but his descent into madness was what really blew me away. There were times where I was questioning with the rest of the cast if he really was insane with his jittery motions, wild mood swings, and voice rising in anger and falling in contemplation at just the right moments. He's an excellent addition to the troupe, and I hope he decides to keep at it! 
     The rest of the cast did an excellent job from concerned but conniving parents Claudius and Gertrude, to supposed friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. But Jamie who plays Ophelia - during her distraught stage brought on by unfortunate events - everything from her bloodied and ruined costume to the hollow far away tone in her voice was haunting and stays with me to this day. 
      Overall it's an amazing display as usual, and amazing work on all these actors parts, I can't wait to see what next year will bring!

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