Timon of Athens
Inside the tent, you see a stage that resembles a huge rectangular table, covered in a white cloth and surrounded by several wooden chairs. An ensemble solemnly enters and freezes abruptly. Hearing voices only inches away from you, they are speaking first lines of Timon of Athens. William Shakespeare wrote the script, but director James Fagan Tait and musical director/composer Joelysa Pankanea bring it to life by setting it in modern-day Athens. CJSF A&E’s Elana Chan had the pleasure of attending the opening performance on July 13, 2007 at Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival.
Tait’s production has a distinctive and pleasantly surprising modern feel. Costume designer Mara Gottler dresses the actors in suits, army uniforms and other contemporary attires, complete with Jackie O and other funky sunglasses in some, often more solemn, scenes. But none of the outfits restrict the actors and actresses fluid movements. As Jennifer Lines (the Poet) sings about the context of the story, the ensemble moves in unison. David Mackay rolls on his back smoothly from a standing position, marking his entrance as Timon. While the concept seems a tad comedic, when performed it is more rhythmical, a distinctive introduction of the protagonist.
The plot of Timon of Athens is one of the most straightforward of Shakespeare’s works, as Tait described in a recent interview with the author, “It’s like a French comedy, a Molière drama/comedy. The actions unfold one after another. The unity of time and order is amazing.” With a minimal set and mimed props, Pankanea produces live sound effects. Watching the show attentively, she delivers the “ding” on her marimba to emphasize a line, and moving utensils and dinner plate for a dinner table scene. One can almost feel the collaborative energy bouncing between the musicians and the performers, and collectively they absorb the audience’s attention into the story. Since their collaboration almost a decade ago, Tait said that he and Pankanea “understand each other very easily”. Their most recent productions include A Christmas Carol (Vancouver Playhouse Theatre), Griffin and Sabine (Arts Club Theatre), and Crime and Punishment (NeWorld Theatre/Vancouver Moving Theatre).
The use of music is so minimal and yet so essential that one can hardly imagine Timon of Athens without it. Timon of Athens is on stage until September 20, 2007 under the tents of Vanier Park for the Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival, a Vancouver summer theatre tradition. Visit www.bardonthebeach.org for more information on Timon of Athens and other productions at the festival. Come enjoy an evening of delightful theatrical experience against the stunning backdrop of mountains and downtown Vancouver.