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Stratford Shakespeare Festival Season: Christopher Hampton, Jacques Brel, Michel Tremblay

Published by Maximo Catoire

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There are three plays that have a French connection next year at Stratford. One features the music of a Paris singing sensation, another depicts the dimensions of the heart, be it racing with love at first sight, or broken with betrayal, while the third is an impassioned ode to mother and son.

Dangerous Liaisons

Written by playwright / screenwright Christopher Hampton (Atonement, Cheri), Dangerous Liaisons weaves an intricate web of emotional chess, decadent deception, seduction, and rampant wit.

Hampton’s play is based on 1782 novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Choderlos de Laclos. Dangerous Liaisons was introduced to a wider audience in 1988, through Hampton’s screenplay of the same name, and the vision of director Stephen Frears (The Queen).

It starred John Malkovich as Vicomte de Sebastien Valmont, Glenn Close as Marquise Isabelle de Merteuil, and Michelle Pfeiffer as Madame de Tourvel. In 1989, Milos Forman (Amadeus) gave novelist Laclos’ lascivious tale his directorial slant in Valmont, featuring Colin Firth in the title role, Annette Bening as the Marquise, and Meg Tilly as Madame de Tourvel.

The 2019 Stratford production features emotional chess players / 2009 season Phedre cast members Tom McCamus as Valmont, Seana McKenna as Marquise de Merteuil, with Sara Topham (2009’s The Importance of Being Earnest) as the virtuous pawn La Presidente de Tourvel. Ethan McSweeney (The Persians, Ion) makes his directorial debut at The Festival Theatre.

Kiss of the Spider Woman Star as Darling of the French Chanson

Brent Carver stars in the musical revue Jacques Brel is Alive and Living in Paris. This 35-song musical revue chronicles dramatic peaks and valleys in the life of Belgian born singer/ actor/ director Jacques Brel, one of the most passionate entertainers in music history. Through years of struggles and determination, Brel eventually won over his audiences, never wavering, always believing in the poetic elegance of his emotionally and physically charged cabaret song stylings.

Brel songs mined every nuance and color of the human palette, with uncanny universal appeal…. “everybody’s tooth aches in the same way, everybody loves their mother, everybody loves or hates spinach. And those are the things that really count.”

Hailed as one of the best French language composers of all time, Brel songs have been covered by many artists.

But one of Brel’s most enduring creations is 1959 torchsong Ne me quitte pas, (covered by Sting) translated by Rod McKeown to English version, If you Go Away, which has been performed by Dusty Springfield, Barbra Streisand, and Frank Sinatra. Arima Stafford (Broadway’s Altar Boyz, West End’s Ragtime) directs.

A Memoir of Mama from Les Belles-Soeurs Playwright

Michel Tremblay’s 2000 play For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again is a tribute to his mother related through the Narrator, (Tom Rooney – 2009’s Julius Caesar) and Lucy Peacock (2009’s The Trespassers) as Nana. The play is a series of autobiographical flashbacks which illustrate the impact of Tremblay’s mother in his life, from a little boy in post war Montreal, to one of Canada’s major playwrights.

This is a potent, bittersweet, memoir steeped in theatrical imagery and plot synopsis to tell Tremblay’s story, the Narrator glued to his chair, while Nana commands the main stage space.

“Perhaps you will recognize her. You’ve often run into her at the theatre, in the audience, and on the stage. You’ve met her in life. She’s one of you.”

For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again, is directed by Chris Abraham (I Am My Own Wife) and will be presented at The Tom Patterson Theatre.

Tickets for the 2019 Stratford Shakespeare Festival Season go on sale to members on November 16. The box office opens to the public on January 9, 2019.For more info go to the Stratford Shakespeare Festival website

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