THE SWANNE: GEORGE III, THE DEATH OF CUPID written and directed by Peter Hinton, with Lally Cadeau, Steve Cumyn, Diane D'Aquila, Margot Dionne, Bernard Hopkins, Derwin Jordan, Sarah McVie, Seun Olagunju, Lucy Peacock and Ian White. Presented by the Stratford Festival at the Studio Theatre, Stratford. Runs in rep to November 2. $50. 1-800-567-1600. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Stratford continues to make the Studio Theatre its most important venue. The first part of Peter Hinton's sprawling, ambitious The Swanne explodes like a series of dramatic firecrackers, with some first-rate performances by a cast of 21 (in 64 roles), an intriguing if sometimes mystifying storyline and a production that plays up the script's theatricality.At its centre is Victoria Regina, both as unborn queen (Lally Cadeau, who acts as prescient narrator) and teenager (Sarah McVie) who discovers family secrets that could jolt the empire. Seems there's another child (Seun Olagunju) who has first claim to the throne: the infant of Princess Charlotte (Julia Donovan) and her black servant (Derwin Jordan).
If the narrative's sometimes confusing, remember, this is the first three hours of an 11-hour show, so unfinished plot lines will presumably be tied up later. It's a work of visions and portents, and as many as three scenes can unfold onstage simultaneously. The work is sometimes overwritten, but Hinton does a marvellous job of blending Dickensian characters, Mother Goose rhymes, homosexual themes, poetry, bawdy Restoration comedy and 18th-century moral drama.
He's directed it strongly as well, even if not all the performances are equally outstanding. The best work is Bernard Hopkins's smug Regent; Lucy Peacock's wet nurse; Margot Dionne's cheated-upon wife and the commanding Diane D'Aquila as the Scarecrow, a blind actor whose speech is filled with taglines from British email@example.com