Monday, February 28, 2011

(No.139) Views, reviews & Don Cherry

Susan Ferley is the artistic director of The Grand Theatre in London, Ontario. Clearly she has a real talent for finding plays based on 19th & 20th century English fiction to include in The Grand's seasonal program. Last year Pat and I attended The Grand Theatre's marvellous stage production of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice (see the review in column No.88 of April 12, 2010 on RickardsRead.com).

This season, in addition to a program of plays like Shirley Valentine, The Grand is presenting "Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure" directed by Marcia Kash and adapted by playwright Stephen Dietz from a 1899 stage version by Arthur Conan Doyle and William Gillette combining "A Scandal in Bohemia" and "The Final Problem".

The staging and sets of The Grand's Sherlock Holmes production are very effective in making use of revolving sets designed by Shawn Kerwin who also did the sets for last year's Pride and Prejudice. Also, as with Pride and Prejudice last season, a complex and lengthy story is advanced and effectively explained by having a character -- Dr. Watson in this case -- step periodically to the front of the stage and, in spotlight, speak directly to the audience and move the plot forward.

The decision to present this work as a play much closer in tone and performance to a Victorian melodrama than to, say, one of PBS' Masterpiece Theatre productions was both fitting and wise. "Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure" clips along at a great rate leaving little time for the audience to be distracted by plot points.

The performances by the large cast all manage to fit within the melodramatic approach to the play. The actor I would single out is Peter Krantz as the King of Bohemia; as with his performance in the role of Elwood P. Dowd in Harvey at last year's Shaw Festival he was excellent in Holmes (see column No.88 on RickardsRead.com).

All in all we found The Grand Theatre's Sherlock Holmes to be a pleasant evening in the theatre.

"Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure" continues at The Grand Theatre through March 5, 2011. It will be followed at The Grand by "Shirley Valentine", the 1986 English play by Willy Russell, which runs from March 22 - April 9, 2011.
For information about these and other productions at The Grand, connect with www.grandtheatre.com; for tickets call 1-519-672-8800.

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I count myself among the many Canadians who enjoy listening to the politically incorrect and occasionally outrageous opinions of Don Cherry. They are offered principally on Hockey Night in Canada.

I have grown increasingly irritated by the fact that Canadian sports columnists almost to a man earn their journalistic and p.c. spurs (as supporters of all that is right about how hockey ought to be changed to a gentler game with no fighting) by filling their columns with rhetorical grenades thrown at Don Cherry. This produces for them the ancillary benefit of attracting readers.

These people seem both offended and frustrated by Cherry's disdain for them and his unflagging popularity with viewers. Indeed Hockey Night In Canada actually sees an incresase in the size of its audience during Cherry's Coach's Corner segments in the first intermission of each Saturday night broadcast when people like me, uninterested in watching another Leaf loss, still make a point of tuning in to catch Don's comments.

One of the (Toronto) Globe and Mail's columnists, Bruce Dowbiggin (who, in his CBC days, Cherry referred to as "sweater boy") once again helped fill his column on Feb 21 by taking shots at Cherry. I was prompted to send a brief letter to the editor of the Globe. No surprise to me that the Globe chose not to publish my shot at its columnists (Dowbiggin is only one of several writing for the Globe who often meet their column inches requirement with criticisms of Cherry).

My unpublished letter to the Globe and Mail appears below:

"The latest of Bruce Dowbiggin's frequent snotty references to "rockhead" Don Cherry [the Globe, Feb 21] reminds me of the extent to which Canadian sports columnists rely upon criticism of Cherry to fill countless column inches.

"Why? The possible reasons are numerous but at least one seems certain: Cherry's unconcealed contempt for columnists who are paid to watch NHL games, a realm in which very few (if any) have first hand experience."

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John Harvey is among the leaders of today's English writers of crime fiction -- also known as police procedurals. I have written in these columns about several of the novelists creating today's 'gritty' English crime fiction (see "Do rocking horses excrete? [more gritty British crime fiction]", column No. 130 of Jan.3, 2011 on RickardsRead.com).

Harvey has created two series of novels with memorable British police detectives: the larger one, eleven novels, featuring Detective Inspector Charlie Resnick of Nottingham and another, a trilogy, with the sometime retired and reclusive D.I. Frank Elder.

In his recent novel Far Cry Harvey's focus is on D.I.Will Grayson of the Cambridgeshire police and his partner Detective Sergeant Helen Walker. The novel goes back and forth in a very well-plotted story from the mid-1990s to the present connecting cases involving the disappearance and abduction of several girls aged 10-12.

John Harvey continues in this novel to demonstrate his considerable talent for combining a great plot with fine writing.

John Harvey's Far Cry was first published in hard cover in 2009 and in soft cover by Arrow in 2010. For information about John Harvey and his books, see www.mellotone.co.uk

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Alastair Rickard

RickardsRead.com

email: Alastair.Rickard