“It’s pronounced Spa-deena,” a man walking his dog told me, after asking him directions. “The street is Spadiiiina, the house is Spadeena.”
In any case, the venue is an old mansion, three stories high, set amongst lush lawns.
When the show begins, two stern members of a fictitious domestic staff, played by Scott Dermody and Sarah Thorpe, greet the audience. And treating us as candidates for domestic staff, they take turns instructing us on household rules.
Mr. Dermody warns that as we tour the building and grounds, that we might overhear conversations. “Please be discreet,” he adds, sharply. “Nothing you hear is to be repeated!”
After a few scenes / rooms into the show, I asked my theatre partner: So, what do you think?
“It’s kinda cool that they let you go into the rooms, and see them from the inside,” she replied. “Usually they’re all roped off, y’know?”
My theatre partner went on to tell me that as a kid she had been here many times on field trips.
This was my first time at Spadina House, though. And, I couldn’t keep my eyes still.
Spadina House totally engrossed me.
Everything, it seems – from the floral wallpaper to the washroom fixtures – has been immaculately restored to what it would have been like in the 1920s and 30s.
Even the dim wattage of the lighting is probably authentic to the period. And on the walls, there were at least a couple paintings of ships on rough seas that were irresistibly distracting. Not to mention random esoteric items like hunting souvenirs (a moose head, and snarling wolves).
Because the set was so richly textured, and at times I was basically standing amongst the characters as they hatched the plot, I forgot a play was going on. I got lost in the ambience of it all – between the lighting by Christine Buijs, language, costumes by Aleightia Covey and scenery by Liam Karry.
The upside to this was that I was constantly stimulated – save for the penultimate scene on the grass. Somehow the spectacle seemed contrived compared to the breeziness of many scenes preceding it.
The downside to this style of production is that with nothing to focus my attention, I dipped in and out of the plot.
This says nothing of the actors though. The performances – amongst them, those by Shayne Monaghan, Tyler Seguire, Nathaniel Fried and Harmonin Tower – were crisp and clear. And, at least a couple of them were hyperactive to the point of resembling four-year-olds after too much sugar.
Plus the plot itself is pretty easy to catch up to, even if you’re not paying super close attention to every single word.
One of the things that makes this production – put together by Alex Dault and Megan Scarborough – so smartly done I think, is that it’s one of the few plays I can honestly say tells most of its story through staging and actions – dancing, drunken back-and-forth, tears of disappointment and fighting – as much as it does through language. So for that, I give the director – Jonathan Langley – and cast the utmost of respect.
Much Ado About Nothing at the Spadina House is a show I’d strongly recommend!
– The show is being produced by Single Thread Theatre Company
– Tickets cost $20
Photo credit: Alex Dault