The Greater Victoria Shakespeare Festival takes to the fields of Camosun College and Saxe Point Park starting July 5. Photo contributed

Shakespeare Festival: The Tempest and Pericles offer contrast for this year’s offerings

Ancient plays present an illustration of the human experience laid bare

The Greater Victoria Shakespeare Festival launches productions of a major triumph and a lesser-known effort from the Bard for its 28th season of outdoor theatre.

Festival general manager Candace Woodland says The Tempest, considered by some as one of Shakespeare’s greatest works; and Pericles, which has less of a pedigree but has gained profile for its clever use of narrative, give fans something to be excited about.

“We always try to find a balance between doing the greatest hits and working with some of the lesser-known plays in the canon,” she says.

“We have Christopher Weddell directing Pericles. He did our 2015 production of Romeo and Juliet and is returning to tackle a play that is at once engaging and disturbing in its subject matter.”

The play is the tale of Pericles, a young prince who, having discovered the king of Antioch’s deadly secret, must flee for his life. He describes the king’s anger: “Few love to hear the sins they love to act,” a line as relevant to the powerful men in today’s world as it was to the king of Antioch.

The Tempest can also be said to maintain its relevance in its examination of the human soul.

Take, for example, the line “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.” It’s an observation that has been quoted and paraphrased countless times and remains as relevant today as it was in 1611.

The play is directed by Chelsea Haberlin in her first outing with the GVSF. Haberlin is the co-artistic producer of ITSAZOO Productions and associate artistic director of Neworld Theatre in Vancouver.

The GVSF continues its commitment to education through the use of a repertory company, in which most actors take roles in both plays. Additionally, two professional actors are cast in mentorship positions, to provide guidance and create learning opportunities for the other members of the cast.

“Every year, our commitment to raising the bar artistically is supported by our layered acting company,” says Karen Lee Pickett, GVSF artistic director. “It’s so exciting to see Shakespeare’s works come to life in an environment of collaborative support.”

Woodland stressed that the attraction of Shakespeare’s plays is that they allow audiences to explore human nature and learn about people in love, in rivalry and in desperation.

“I think there are lots of things that keep attracting audiences to Shakespeare. There is beautiful action, engaging characters and plots that keep us totally engaged. But all of that would be nothing without Shakespeare’s profound understanding of human nature,” she said.

Both plays will be performed outdoors at Camosun College’s Lansdowne Campus and begin on July 5.

Pericles will be performed on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays (7:30 p.m.) from July 5 to 31, while The Tempest will be featured Wednesdays and Fridays (7:30 p.m.) between July 6 and 28.

Bard Across the Bridge will see The Tempest performed three times (Aug. 2-4, 7:30 p.m.) in Esquimalt’s Saxe Point Park, through a partnership with the Township Community Arts Council.

Tickets are $26, and $21 for students and seniors 65-over. Festival passes are available. Children 12 and under are free.

Also new this year is the Shakespeareance Card, a six-show punch-card for Shakes-Fans. “We’ve had some requests for a punch card in the last couple of years,” said Woodland. “This gives six admissions, and can be used all at once, or over the course of the season. Bring five friends to one performance or see one of the plays six times – it’s up to you!”

Regular tickets and passes are available through ticketrocket.ca and at the venue. For more information, visit vicshakespeare.com.

editor@mondaymag.com

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