Shakespeare’s most famous drama plays in the park in Toronto
Get your summertime dose of outdoor Shakespeare by enjoying Bard in the Park‘s production of Hamlet. Playing in the Toronto Beaches at Kew Gardens, this two and a half hour play is complete with swordfights, ghosts and poison.
The premise: Hamlet’s father, who is the king of Denmark, suddenly dies. Hamlet’s uncle Claudius (Holm Bradwell) takes the throne and marries Hamlet’s mother Gertrude (Melissa Beveridge). Hamlet (James Soares-Correla) meets his father’s ghost and learns that Claudius murdered Hamlet’s father. Hamlet must now avenge his father’s death.
Visually, the Hamlet production was a feast for the eyes. The gazebo of Kew Gardens worked well as a stage, as the actors used the steps to create distance among themselves or to illustrate hierarchy. The swaying trees were a lovely backdrop.
And of all the costumes, Gertrude’s dress was rightfully the most majestic. Another notable costume was that of the ghost of Hamlet’s father. My friend had recently seen another Hamlet production in which the ghost showed his face and wore kingly clothes. This Bard in the Park costume team dressed the ghost entirely in black and hid his face. I thought it worked very well; the gloom and doom of his victimhood was loud and clear. So hats off to the costume team of Beveridge, Keith Williams, Olivia Jon and Caedmon Ricker-Wilson.
The stand-out performer was the actor who portrayed Hamlet: James Soares-Correla. After Hamlet found out about the crime, Soares-Correla gave us a pained monologue that made the veins on his forehead pop out. We could feel his torture. He even scrunched up his face, making it turn beet red — so powerful was his anguish.
The talent of Soares-Correla also shone through by his diction, the projection of his voice and the way he carried his royal yet troubled body. He seemed perfectly cast as Hamlet. He was the star who bound his cast together, who spoke even louder when his fellow actors had a couple of inaudible moments.
Something else I really liked: seeing actors run through the audience in the grass. It was as if we were part of the stage; I enjoyed the surprise and interaction and thought it was cool to have Laertes (Ricker-Wilson) or Horatio (Mikhael Meinkoff) rush past us.
While there was a certain magic to seeing theatre outdoors, the different sounds of Kew Gardens were a bit distracting for some audience members. Background noise included a ball game, cars on Queen Street and barking dogs as well as the more pleasant sounds of birds chirping. The cast however remained focused in this unpredictable setting. Airplane overhead? The show must go on!
Hamlet ends this Sunday, so hurry. It’s a bit of a gloomy way to celebrate Father’s Day, but it’s definitely an afternoon well-spent. I’d advise you to bring chairs or sleeping bags to sit down on, as the grass gets colder and wetter with each scene.
- Hamlet plays at Kew Gardens (2075 Queen St. East)
- Showtimes: Saturday, June 20 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Sunday, June 21 at 2 p.m.
- Prices: PWYC (Pay What You Can)