Bard on the Beach, at Vanier Park,

until September 18th

My Two Pence

My Two Cents

Bard on the Beach is known for its high production values and new envisionings of classics. This show definately breaks no moulds in its retelling, nonetheless it is a very enjoyable way to spend a few hours.


The set is basic although the multi-levels are fun to play with and added to exceptional costuming by Cory Sincennes provides a perfect backdrop for the action. The real surprise and excitement is the revolving floor which is used just the right amount to add real moments of magic (most notably in the boat scene - allowing the audience to get full expressions from both actors as they sit across from one another).


On the costumes, I don’t think I have ever seen a better one than that of our Queen Elizabeth (Jennifer Lines) who receives applause each and every time she is on the stage, granted it is probably also to do with her fantastic performance.


The cast are exceptional, but the stand out is Ghazal Azarbad as Viola. She is grounded in her characterisation and shows real depth of emotion peppered with brilliant comedic timing and expression. I am always so excited to see Andrew McNee in whatever he does, and Andrew Cownden is also perfectly appointed as Valentine. I could watch these two for days in any role.


The story itself is not so brilliant. Some jokes are overdone and there is a natural irk to seeing so few women on the stage… however, this is really an inherent fault in the writing, and the time in which the production itself is set. The ‘happy ending’ leaves our heroine marrying someone she really has no interest at all in, and Shakespeare continuing his marvellous success despite being the cause of his best friend (and writing “assistant”) Kit Marlowe (another brilliant turn from Austin Eckert). Not exactly a progressive rousing tale-for-our-times, but nonetheless, a very pleasant way to spend an evening.

- Penny Warwick

When walking into a Bard on the Beach show, there’s a certain level of expectation that comes with the territory. Their production of Shakespeare in Love certainly maintains the level of professionalism and quality that is expected when forking out the dough for a prestigious Bard ticket.

I’m sure most people interested in this particular production, are familiar with the 1998 award-winning film starring Joseph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow, from which this play is adapted. I often find that when something, a play or book, is adapted from a movie it often falls short, not having enough source material. It has been a while since I’ve watched the movie, but if memory serves, Bard’s production does an excellent job of recreating and adding to the fictional love story of William Shakespeare’s romance with Viola de Lesseps. 


First of all, what I love most about this production is the costumes. I admire how Bard sets Shakespearean plays in different times and settings than traditionally portrayed, but seeing the Elizabethan outfits that would have been worn during the time of SIL is certainly a sight to behold. Cory Sincennes has truly outdone himself in both the costumes and the set department. Originally a movie,SIL flits from scene to scene, which is easily done in the cinematic universe, but less easily achieved on the theatrical stage. Sincennes’ ingenious set easily transitions from one location to another without too much fanfare. 


The players also help seamlessly transition SIL from screen to stage. Outstanding performances include Charlie Gallant (Will Shakespeare), Ghazal Azarbad (Viola de Lesseps), Jennifer Lines (Queen Elizabeth and Molly) and Kamyar Pazandeh (Ned Alleyn and Lambert). All their performances do justice to the original characters, while still making their own personas distinct and unique. Gallant’s Shakespeare is charming, yet foolish and you can’t help but root for him. Azarbad as Viola is passionate and romantic with a profound love of poetry, theatre, and Shakespeare, of course. Lines and Pazandeh, while having a couple of smaller roles still bring powerful performances. Pazandeh portrays Ned as an arrogant but kind-hearted actor, while Lines brings elegance and power to the role of Queen Elizabeth.


While the script itself cannot compare to those written by the Bard himself, Bard on the Beach’s production of Shakespeare in Love is worth a watch. So if you’re in the mood for something Shakespeare-ish, this romantic tragicomedy will stills bring you lines of Shakespearean verse, while not being outright Shakespeare. It will give you an evening filled with great performances, spectacular visuals, and much entertainment.

Emma Rossland