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LEAR is both a trilingual and three tiered production that creates a new experience, conversation, space and proves change can be necessary


By Ezekiel McAdams


May 7 2024

*As I write this, I’m aware there may be nuance that I lack and ignorance to cultural and diversity presented on stage. I’m a straight white male, who was born with privilege, opportunities, as well of only speaking one language, English. The French and the diverse Indigenous culture and experiences presented on stage, that there may be ignorance and nuance that was lost on me as I watched the matinee production on May 7 2024.  I feel vastly under qualified writing this review. I’m learning, growing and my hope is for a review from an Indigenous and French perspective that I clearly lack* - Author’s Note

  LEAR, the new production coming from Gordon Tootoosis Theatre, La Troupe Du Jour and Never Never Shakespeare is a trilingual adaptation of Shakespeare’s King Lear that has been three years in the making.


  This production was co-directed by Jennifer Dawn Bishop of Gordon Tootoosis Theatre and Bob Wicks of Never, Never Shakespeare. Wicks also served as dramaturg,


  The cast includes Andrea Folster, Christopher Krug-Iron, Dalton Lightfoot, Bruce McKay, Gabrielle Dufrense, Danielle Spilchen, Paige Francoeur, Kody Farrow, Phillipa Williams, Claire Middleton, Emily Rempel and Leze Pewapsconias.


  This production runs from April Twenty Fifth to May Twelfth 2024 at Persephone’s Backstage.


  This collaborative creation, made LEAR a unique work of art, that blended Shakespeare’s text of King Lear, French and the multiple Indigenous experiences into an amalgamation that felt otherworldly. This felt akin to peering into another universe, where many things felt familiar yet different and created an unforgettable experience.


  Throughout the production the cast would effortlessly switch between different languages, where the experience never felt forced but added another layer of richness to a text that has been adapted for centuries.


  McKay as Lear brought a pathos mixed with a comic energy reminiscent of a clown but ingrained was the sadness and the weight of his kingdom. McKay was able to shuffle every emotional like a deck of cards.


  Dufresne as Cordelia was commanding in both her sorrow and authority that she so highly sought. Dufresne brought a complete opposite energy as the Fool that showcased a joyous, silly infectious energy and range that she brought to both.  


  Francoeur’s performance as Goneril was a very nuanced. that felt like a chameleon. Effortlessly shifting and causing doubt of her true intentions.


  Spilchen was very conniving, duplicitous as Regan and was able to adjust the performance with both body language and vocal cadence.


  Krug-Iron as Gloucester was captivating with the confidence and charisma he conveyed


  Lightfoot as Edgar was a joy to watch, as he made the character relatable yet have a sinister underbelly.


  Farrow’s Cornwall brought such rage and conviction in his performance that is almost mesmerizing at times.


  Williams brought a magnetic ferocity in her performance as Albany


  Rempel as Burgandy brought meekness, loyalty and resentment that was restrained while also very emotive in body language, physicality and tone.


  Folster was able to imbue a mysterious energy that resonated throughout the production whether she was on stage or not.


  Pewapsconias as Edgar was transformative, being able to switch guises but still embodied compassion as his character, which felt delightful.


  And finally, Middleton, brought a sense of wonder in the multiple roles she played as France, Messanger and Gentleman. Each felt unique and different than the others.


  Bishop’s and Wick’s direction had a very naturalistic quality that allowed three languages to converge and diverge effortlessly, never taking you away from neither the production nor the performances. Both brought a wonderful rhythm and job of balancing the actors, the set design, the audience engagement and the space everyone shared.


  Jensine Emeline’s set was simplistic yet elegant and allowed the actors free reign around the space which allowed and fostered audience engagement and allowed the design to also speak for itself.

  Frank Engel as Technical Director helped fostered an ambience that brought this production to life and helped keep all the cogs of this machine running.


  Stephen Wade made such excellent use in the lightning design whether there were strobe lights, short flashes and the traditional set lightning helped capture both attention and imagination for this production. 


  Jeff Chief’s costume design was both quintessential Shakespearian but also incorporated styles of both French and Indigenous cultures that made it really memorable.


  Rory Jewiss brought both simplicity yet an otherworldly element to each prop that was a standout for this Shakespeare adaptation.


  Tim Bratton who is currently performing in 25th Street Theatre’s The Art of French Cooking brought an immerse atmosphere to the sound design which heightened the small stage for both the actors and audience.


  Daniel Ford Beavis brought both a level of familiarity but also very natural rhythm to the fight choreography.


   And finally collectively, Aaron Shingoose’s work as Stage Manager, Nicole Kidder as assistant stage manager, Randy Morin as language keeper and Tanqueray Strange as the both venue technician and lighting operator was instrumental in having everything in synchronicity.


  Simply put, whether you like Shakespeare, are familiar with his works, the texts or like theatre, this is a very special experience that is not to be missed. An amalgamation of culture, diversity under the foundation laid by Shakespeare that feels new and worthy of standing among the countless iterations.


  LEAR is running from April 25-May 12 2024 at Persephone’s Backstage in Saskatoon. Tickets can be bought online at both Gordon Tootoosis Theatre and Persephone as well as the boxoffice.   

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