Shakespeare on the beach

While most plays use artfully crafted sets to lay down their stage, one Shakespearean classic, which opens today, relies on nothing more than Vancouver’s natural mountain backdrop.

Bard On The Beach, the city’s annual outdoor Shakespeare Festival, starts its 19th season this afternoon with a matinee preview of Twelfth Night.

The romantic comedy, along with King Lear, The Tempest and Titus Andronicus will run until the end of September.

Christopher Gaze, the founder and artistic director of Bard, said the festival sold out its seats last year.

“A show may sell out for a three-week run, but when you run 19 weeks and sell out it’s a triumph,” he said.

“People get hooked. You’re outside, you can sit with beer or wine or popcorn in the theatre and watch Vancouver’s best actors perform the greatest plays ever written against this exquisite backdrop,” Gaze said.

“It’s a gorgeous collection of all these exceptional circumstances.”

He added the challenge with Shakespeare is to find a new way to tell centuries-old stories.

In the case of King Lear, he said director James Fagan Tait has set the medieval tale in the near future. Last year, The Taming Of The Shrew was performed in a Wild West setting.

“It’s a unique look at the play and my hope is that it’s very beguiling and people will see this story afresh.”

Over the years Bard on the Beach attendance has grown significantly from 6,000 patrons that came in 1990 to more than 86,000 patrons that enjoyed shows in 2007.


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