Review: (Victoria / Theatre) Equivocation
(photo by Emily Cooper)
Theatre and the Truth
Equivocation Rounds Off Spectacular Shakespeare Season at the Belfry
by Morgan McPherson
Since I have started my very young career as a theatre reviewer, I have seen the process of going to a show in a whole new light. As a Fringe Festival theatregoer since 2003, I usually thoroughly research a show beforehand and make a very conscious decision about what I see. After my first review, I decided to surrender myself to the shows I would be attending as a representative of this publication with little foreknowledge of the details.
On every occasion, I have been incredibly pleased with the result. The Belfry Theatre here in Victoria has put on a simply smashing season; so goes the theatre's current offering, Bill Cain's Equivocation.
Equivocation is a play about William Shakespeare, and his commission by King James I to write a play about the most infamous event in recent times, the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. For those not too familiar, the Gunpowder Plot was a failed attempt to assassinate King James I and his family by blowing up the House of Lords during the state opening of England's Parliament on November 5th, 1605. The plot, also known as the Jesuit Treason, was put into action by a group of English Catholics led by Robert Catesby. The play opens with Sir Robert Cecil (Anousha Alamian), King James' assistant, approaching Shakespeare (Bob Frazer) and charging him with the task of writing a play based on the 'true history' of the Gunpowder Plot at the king's request. The rest of the play centres around Shakespeare, the members of his company (Anton Lipovetsky, Shawn MacDonald, Gerry Mackay) and his daughter (Rachel Cairns), and his quest for the truth in order to write his most dangerous work. The end result of this adventure is a familiar work that you will likely recognize.
Directed by Michael Shamata, this play has a run time of 2 hours and 45 minutes. I was riveted for every second without fail, my attention never flagging. The play's pacing was perfect, transporting the audience seamlessly between backstage action within Shakespeare's company and Shakespeare's conversations and investigations involving the main players in the plot. Most of the members of the cast played two or more roles to great effect, occasionally transporting back and forth between characters within the same scene. The sets and costumes were elegant and evocative of the time (designed by Kevin McAllister and Nancy Bryant, respectively), and it is no mean feat to costume everything from royal to playwright to actor portraying a pauper who is covered in…well…I'm sure you get the picture. I also learned a great deal from this show about both William Shakespeare and his family, his company, a major event in English history and an important logical fallacy. This play left me incredibly satisfied, and reaffirmed my opinion that a well-crafted piece of theatre can give me so much more than any film can. For me, there is no comparison.
April 22 - May 25
Running Time: 2 hrs 45 mins with one intermission
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