Torchlight Shakespeare at Ottawa’s Strathcona Park

Photo Credit: Company of Fools

Melodie Cardin (Twitter) has lived in the National Capital Region since 2000. A 2007 graduate of Carleton University’s school of journalism, she’s now the manager of communications for a small project assisting Canadian researchers to collaborate internationally. 

I cannot believe that after 10 years in the National Capital Region, I had never been to A Company of Fools’ Torchlight Shakespeare. Monday night I found friends and lawn chairs, and headed to Strathcona Park in Sandy Hill to enjoy this summer’s play, Antony and Cleopatra.

Strathcona Park in itself is an Ottawa gem. It borders the Rideau River, and so has that great smell of weeds and wildlife. From the small stone wall that runs along the riverbank is a lovely view of the bridge which connects Sandy Hill to Vanier. The North border of the park has a steep hill with a gorgeous fountain at the top of it, directly across Laurier street from Le Cordon Bleu.

The park is pleasantly full of people walking their dogs or basking under the shade of a giant tree with a book. It’s a nice size, has a bike path running through one side of it, and last night, was almost mosquito-free, despite the proximity to the river.

Strathcona Park

Normally, Antony and Cleopatra is a tragedy, but A Company of Fools played it as a comedy to great effect. There were lots of modern touches thrown in, metatheatrical winks to the audience that were greatly enjoyed. Many of the actors took on several roles apiece, and they did a nice job of differentiating them not only through costumes but through exaggerated comedic body language.

Making a comedy out of the play was a good idea – a tragedy in the park might not have been a great idea. The barking of dogs, people calling out to each other, bikes riding by would likely have spoiled the tone of a tragedy, whereas the comedy allowed the actors to improvise and interact with their surroundings.

It may not be New York City, and Shakespeare in the Park with Al Pacino, but Ottawa’s actors are great – plus you don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn to get a ticket. Of particular note, I thought, were Richard Gélinas in the role of Antony, and Katie Bunting and Cari Leslie playing several roles each. The banter between Antony and Enobarbus was the best part of the play, largely because of the excellent comic timing and chemistry between Gélinas and Leslie.

All in all, it was an evening I would highly recommend – the play was hilarious, the surroundings were gorgeous, and it’s a pretty cheap way to be entertained (pay what you can into the hat – 10$ donation suggested.) It’s kid and pet-friendly as well.

A Company of Fools has one more performance in Strathcona Park, next Monday. As well, Antony and Cleopatra plays until Aug. 20 in various parks around the city – see their website, www.fools.ca, to find out where.