Friday, August 28, 2009

Billy Bishop Goes to War

I'm here at Stratford, slightly drunk and happily stuffed, having just finished a wonderful dinner at Down the Street, after spending the afternoon watching West Side Story, which I will rave about tomorrow, because tonight I want to talk about a magnificent performance I saw on Tuesday: Billy Bishop Goes to War, featuring Eric Peterson and John Gray in the roles they originated 30 years ago.

My God, Eric Peterson can act, and the dynamic between John Gray and him on stage is incredible. They've been friends for 30 years, and it shows. John Gray's music and lyrics are as powerful now as when they were first written, and Eric Peterson has the ability to grab an audiences attention and hold it in a way that few actors can manage. Even when a cel phone went off in the audience, which can be a killer for a one man show, he managed to keep his cool, gently scold the audience member and get everyone else in the audience to check to make sure their phones were off, all without being mean, without losing his dignity, and without ever losing his hold on the audience.

Soulpepper has "Talkback Tuesdays," where the actors stay and talk to audience members who wish to ask questions. Wonderful idea - a great way to learn more about the show, the performers, and the concept behind it.

An interesting thing that was raised in the talkback, and that one saw in the performance, was the change of the nature of the show for the actors. When they were younger, it was a play about coming of age, and the horrors of war. Now, as both actors are the age Billy Bishop was when he died, the play for them has changed, taken on a new meaning as a story of survival.

Great play.

Tomorrow, I will rave about West Side Story. Tonight, I'm going to sleep.

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