Jeremy Smith is in his 21st year as the founding artistic director of Driftwood Theatre. The company performs Shakespeare every year, but it is the company's first time doing HAMLET.
OK, so why HAMLET this year? Well for one thing, we're in an election year.
"The play is a powerful exploration of grief and revenge. Post 9-11, we have lived with governments that employ the politics of fear. In the period when HAMLET is set, Denmark is in a state of fear. HAMLET examines the ways governments use fear to maintain power."
Also Smith explains, this is a very different version of HAMLET than audiences usually get to see.
"We're doing a version of HAMLET based on the 1st quarto, which is roughly half the length of the 1st Folio version."
Huh? I am about to get a lesson in dramaturging Shakespeare.
"There are three printed editions of the canon (the collected works) attributed to Shakespeare.
All three were printed within 20 years (1603-23). The first quarto is the so-called “bad quarto”, because the language is often rougher. The two versions that follow are the 2nd quarto, and the 1st Folio, which is the one most people read in high school, and university."
I look over at my well-worn Bevington, resting on the bookcase: sure enough, it's first Folio.
"We decided to go with the 1st quarto, because it's action packed, very dynamic. There's also a scene not in other versions. Our dramaturge, Toby Malone worked to retain the lyricism of the later versions, but hang onto the dynamism of 1st quarto. He also incorporated line structure from the later drafts, so you have the beautiful speeches, but it's not three and half hours long, like the one currently playing at Stratford."
How did a different version of the text affect Smith's selection of an actor to play Hamlet?
"I wanted a young Hamlet for this: someone who could credibly be rash and impulsive."
So a bit of a badass?
"Oh yeah. Paulo Santalucia has great classical training and experience, as well as an abundance of youthful energy. His Hamlet is a hothead."
Smith is excited. "There's lots of fighting, including a great sword-fight. Tod Campbell, has worked with us since 2001. He's our go-to fight director, and he really pumps up the action."
Driftwood maintains a rigorous touring schedule, in support of its mandate to take classical theatre to communities with little or no access to the art form. "We opened last Saturday in Oshawa. We will appear in over 20 venues this summer from London to Bobcaygeon. Not everyone can afford to go out of town to see theatre. So we take theatre to them. Our performances are always pay what you can."
Jeremy is an avid motorcyclist and takes his bike around the province, to visit the company on the road, as well as the people, and places he has grown to know and love.
"I look forward to driving the back roads of Ontario on my bike, and going to meet our audiences. People come back to see us perform year after year. We are part of their summer."
One of the directorial challenges for Smith, is creating a production that will work well in many different playing spaces. "Oh yes, parks, city squares: I've set the production in the round, and we use amplified sound to make sure the audience can hear over traffic, planes, barking dogs, kids." This year, he also designed the show, as he often does.
Tonight, Driftwood Theatre begins a one week run of HAMLET in Withrow Park, in Toronto. Bring some bug repellent, and a picnic and go experience one of the joys of summer: live, outdoor Shakespeare.
Driftwood Theatre performs HAMLET in Toronto, from July 21st-26th , 2015, nightly, at 7:30 at WITHROW PARK, ( CARLAW & STRATHCONA) in Riverdale, before resuming their tour of Ontario, which continues in various locations around the province, until August 16th.
PAY WHAT YOU CAN (but they'd really love it if you can manage to pay $20)
Reservations can be made for $20 by calling (416) 703 2773 x 246 or at
www.driftwoodtheatre.com which also has a calendar of other dates and locations.