Mar. 13, 2013 - Issue #908: In Your Face
When That I Was
Jack Rice (Christopher Hunt) used to be an actor. He used to work alongside Shakespeare at the Globe Theatre. He used to be happy. When we meet Jack, however, the Puritans have condemned theatre to a long list of sinful activities that are no longer permitted, and so Jack takes refuge in the abandoned theatre of his childhood. As he sips some stolen wine and sits in his tattered clothes, our protagonist is kept company by the ghosts of his past, and the audience is quickly swept away in his reminiscences of the golden days of his youth.
Nostalgia is a powerful and very relatable human exercise. Watching Jack depict the stories of his past ranges from funny, to touching, to downright heartbreaking. Hunt plays nearly 30 characters throughout the show and each depiction is beautifully executed. The use of props is particularly creative, as evidenced by Hunt's capability to make the audience believe that a mere piece of knotted cloth is Shakespeare's son, Hamnet. When depicting Hamnet's death, Jack simply unknots the cloth. At this, many in the audience let out a sad gasp, which served as a clear testament to Hunt's phenomenal skills on stage.
The set, lighting and sound designs are phenomenal in this production and compliment each other beautifully. This show is an apt example of how effective a story can become when all the elements of a production directly compliment one another. The times when Jack would transport us to the stage in its heyday were particularly affecting. The sound and the lights partnered to completely change the landscape of the set, and, suddenly, we would be softly dropped back into the abandoned theatre where Shakespeare's personage became Jack's weary self yet again.
If you're someone who usually passes on all things Shakespeare, this might be the perfect way to access the Bard in an unconventional way. In one sense, the show will please the dedicated Shakespeare fans in attendance, but in another, this show has a new story to tell: Jack's.
Shakespeare's in it, but Jack is the one who pulls us along. He grounds us, and we relate to certain quintessential human emotions that he so honestly displays. Above all in When That I Was, Jack is an exquisitely crafted character who, in the hands of Christopher Hunt, is a joy to watch.
Until Sun, Mar 24 (7:30 pm; 2 pm Saturday and Sunday matinee; no show Monday)
Directed by Vanessa Porteous
Varscona Theatre, $16 – $27 vueweekly.com comments: powered by Disqus
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