Like An Old Tale is a multicultural retelling of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, dubbed one of the famous poet’s “problem plays” because it features a strange mix of tragedy and comedy. Apparently such “problem plays” make for a great story, as the Jumblies Theatre did an excellent job of adapting and retelling the famous tale with a multicultural twist.
The Winter’s Tale has a lot going on in it. The jealous king Leontes’ wife, Hermione, is accused of committing adultery with his best friend, Polixenes, and Hermione is jailed. Soon after, Leontes and Hermione’s young son dies before she gives birth to a daughter Perdita who is smuggled out of the country after Hermione’s sudden death.
The play picks up sixteen years later, when the beautiful daughter, Perdita who was raised by shepherds, falls in love with Polixenes’ son and returns to her homeland where her mother, Hermione, comes back to life after her likeness was turned into a statue. If I hadn’t read the plot synopsis before the show, I would have been very confused!
Like An Old Tale offers audience members a very different experience from a typical theatre show which is what makes it so unique. Audience members are encouraged to participate in the play, getting small roles when they enter the theatre space, or even going in early to practice a larger role with the actors. Throughout the play, audience members are encouraged to whisper along or read out cards with words on it, given to them by the actors.
I found it difficult to tell who was an actor during the play and who the audience members were because there were so many people involved. Everyone who attended the show was very enthusiastic about participating and it made for a truly multicultural storytelling experience; there were people of all ages, genders and ethnicities who helped tell this interesting story.
The space that the play took place in is very different from a traditional theatre setting. Located in a huge warehouse, there was no centre stage. Audience members were invited to sit at different sized tables that were placed around the perimeter of the room while the acting, dancing and puppetry all occurred in the middle.
There was singing, opera, puppets, and some really amazing wall projections that were created with the use of overhead projectors. I really liked how verses of Shakespeare appeared on several walls at once, incorporating the basis for the play with Jumblies’ own take on the story.
Even the intermission was different from anything I’d ever experienced before. The audience was encouraged to get up and dance with the actors, pretending it was the “annual sheep shearing festival.” After the intermission was over, everyone changed seats, offering, literally, a new perspective for the second part of the play.
Perhaps the best part of the play was the props. They were unbelievably beautiful and added so much to the story that was being told. Everything had a homemade, hand-crafted, rustic and almost vintage vibe to it.
When the baby Perdita was being smuggled out of her homeland, several people came together to make up the boat that consisted of several crafted pieces that were made of wooden twigs. Each piece of the boat came together to form the shape of a boat, and each person holding their part swayed and flowed like the ocean, making it appear that this boat was sailing through the waves and water. The entire play was such a visual experience and unlike anything I’d experienced before.
If you are looking for a unique theatre experience, you should definitely go see Like An Old Tale. It’s great if you’d like to participate and make your stage debut, so to speak, but if you’re relatively shy like I am, there is no pressure to participate and you can just sit back and enjoy the show.
– Like An Old Tale is playing at Commercial Studios (793 Pharmacy Ave.) until December 18, 2011
– Shows run Wednesday through Saturday (and December 11) at 7:30pm; matinees Saturdays and Sundays at 2pm, with a December 16 gala
– Ticket prices range from $20-$50
– Tickets are available online at http://jumbliestheatre.org/
Photo taken by Katerine Kleitas