DEATH IN VENICE ~ Haunting Delicacy
Arts Northumberland (Walter Luedtke) - Thursday, October 22 2009
It has been argued that all you need for drama is one actor and four walls and Robert Latimer’s one-man turn as von Aschenbach at the Capitol delivered the proof. Latimer had already given a stellar impersonation of David Hare in Via Dolorosa three years ago and this performance was every bit its equal.
Death In Venice, Thomas Mann's 1911 novella about an elderly man's obsession with a boy, is a work of exquisite craftsmanship – ‘a tale of gentle sorrow and violent emotions, tortured intellectual rigor and guilty homo-erotic rapture’. Latimer’s subtle and achingly restrained performance, managed to do justice to the haunting delicacy of Mann’s language.
Latimer’ s craft was equal to the versatility demanded by a solo turn playing a fastidious German aesthete as well as assorted porters, tourists, and gondoliers. He produced the appropriate accents and gestures – sometimes violent, but mostly controlled with a slightly hunched back and arms tightly pressed to his sides.
And then came the heart stopping “theatrical moment”, when Aschenbach is driven to burst out "I love you" and brings his hand to his lips as if to stop the words that have already escaped. Theatre pure!
One of the many things to be admired in Latimer’s work as an actor and director is the infinite care he brings to his task. On this occasion it was sleuthing and many trans-Atlantic phone calls to locate the play in manuscript form – it has not been published yet. The result is yet another Canadian premiere of an internationally acclaimed play in Port Hope.
Equally painstaking is his selection of the evocative music – this time resurrecting the voice of Joseph Schmidt, the famed German lyric tenor.
As with all First Stages presentations, Death in Venice was a staged “concert reading without the benefit of lengthy rehearsals and with a minimum of costumes or props, in this case two tables, two chairs, a coat rack.
A play reading experience has been compared to watching a radio play unfold, with the emphasis on the spoken word that provides the spark to ignite the imagination of the audience.
Serious, professional world theatre, painstakingly presented to a devoted, yet still too small, audience - that is First Stages.
THE ROAD TO MECCA ~ What a powerful play and what powerful performances.
Arts Council of Northumberland Review (Selenca Forsyth) - Wednesday, October 7 2009
When you consider that the play The Road to Mecca by South African playwright, actor, novelist and director Athol Fugard is about an old woman who is a friendless, somewhat odd – actually a lot odd - artist who lives alone in the home she calls Mecca and that the play is all about her art and its effect on the community in which she lives, it’s easy to wonder how this will work as a play reading when you can’t see the art. It’s the play Robert Latimer chose to start the 2009-10 First Stages Theatre Company season and believe me, it worked.
The character of Helen Martins, whose Mecca is a place of love, refuge and memories, is based on the life of the real Helen Martins of Nieu Bethesda, South Africa. The inside of her house was a kaleidoscope of coloured glass and outside in the garden were more than 200 strange sculptures of owls, biblical figures, buddhas and ancient gods and goddesses. The neighbours thought she was nuts and her stuff a blight, the local church minister tries to persuade her to move to a retirement residence and her friend, perhaps the only one she has and to whom she has sent a plaintive note suggesting suicide, drives hundreds of miles non-stop to find out what gives. The result is Fugard’s examination of what it means to be an artist, what it means to be older and what it means to be shunned. It’s an exploration of the question we also may face: should we be forced/persuaded to leave our home when we are perceived to be unable to take care of ourselves?
What a powerful play and what powerful performances by the three actors, directed, of course, by Robert Latimer. Maria Heidler played Miss Helen, Godric Latimer-Kim played her friend Elsa Barlow and the Reverend Marius Byleveld was played by Sven Van de Ven. All the action takes place in Miss Helen’s living room and every second was riveting. The entire audience was rooting for her and there wasn’t a person in the house who wasn’t ecstatic when Miss Helen reveals her true strength and decides to stay in her Mecca. The real Helen Martins committed suicide in 1975 and today her home, known as The Owl House, has been proclaimed a national monument and is a Mecca for artists and tourists.
THREE TALL WOMEN
Arts Council of Northumberland Review (Selena Forsyth) - Saturday, May 2 2009
I had not read Edward Albee’s “Three Tall Women”. I did read the reviews on the Internet of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play and they all used superlatives to describe both Albee’s work and the actors who performed it. It was difficult though to imagine how it worked. Three actors playing A, B and C, the same woman at different stages of her life, and usually all three on stage at the same time. And then there was an actor who plays her son who doesn’t have a name either. You’ll have to trust me that it all comes together very quickly. It’s one of those cases of “you had to be there”. And if you weren’t you missed yet another stunning production from First Stages Theatre Company. The actors – Corinne Conley, Jillian Cook, Godric Latimer-Kim and Sean Tasson as the son – were to have been directed by Maria Heidler* who fell ill and Robert had to take over at noon on the day of the performance. The results of his nerve-racking, 11th - hour experience were spellbinding.
A is a very old woman in her 90s. She is thin, autocratic, proud, and wealthy. She also has a mild case of Alzheimer's disease. B is A's 52 year-old version, to whom she is the hired caretaker. She is markedly cynical about life. Although she doesn't enjoy working for A, she learns much from her. C is B's 26 year-old version. She is present on behalf of A's law firm because A has neglected paperwork, payment, and such. She has all of youth's common self-assurance. The son comes to see his dying mother after many years of rarely visiting. His character speaks not one word but doesn’t need to.
Albee has admitted in interviews that the play was directly inspired by his mother, a ‘domineering, Amazonian woman’. He was raised by conservative New England foster parents who disapproved of his homosexuality; like the son in his play, he left home at eighteen. Albee admitted to the Economist that the play ‘‘was a kind of exorcism. And I didn’t end up any more fond of the woman after I finished it than when I started it.’’ He has described the writing of the play as "an exorcism." Major treat at the Capitol Theatre. It was yet another First Stages afternoon to remember.
*[Artistic Director's note: Owing to a sudden illness, Ms. Heidler was unable to be at the theatre on the day of the performance. What I managed to do in a few short hours was only possible because of her tremendous amount of research and the time she previously spent with the actors in preparing and guiding them through the play. The success of THREE TALL WOMEN is due to Ms. Heidler's insight, talent and expertise in directing Mr. Albee's very fine play. It is unfortunate that she was unable to be there to see the outstanding results of her work. ~ Robert Latimer-Cornell.]
DUET FOR ONE ~ An Amazing Experience
Arts Council of Northumberland Review (Selena Forsyth) - Thursday, March 26 2009
Producer/Artistic Director Robert Latimer and First Stages Theatre Company never cease to amaze me. Each time I go to a performance I think it can’t get any better than that. Well it does and it did last Sunday when David Gardner and KarenSweet read DUET FOR ONE. It’s a play written by British actor and playwright Tom Kempinski. It has won accolades and awards everywhere and that is not at all surprising. It received the London Critic’s Award when it was first performed in 1980 and the following year it opened on Broadway with Anne Bancroft and Max von Sydow. It was made into a movie in 1986 and is now revived in London at the National Theatre. It’s not surprising that it keeps on being a huge hit: it is an amazing experience.
Stephanie Abrahams is a young woman violinist who has made her mark in the professional world of classical music and is married to a very successful composer. In the midst of her success she is stricken with Multiple Sclerosis and when we meet her, she is in a wheelchair. She no longer plays the violin. We meet her on her first visit to a psychiatrist, Dr. Alfred Feldmann. They begin a doctor/patient relationship that is at times tender, at times funny, at times desperate and at times fraught with despair, anger, angst and the examination of her suicidal thoughts.
The two actors who play the roles are simply astonishing. We have now met David Gardner seven times in First Stages readings. He is 80 years old and an actor of enormous talent and presence. I cannot imagine anyone else playing Dr. Feldmann. We are so privileged to have him here again. It was an honour. I last saw Karen Sweet in the Capitol theatre production of EDUCATING RITA. I thought she was the best I’d ever seen play that role. Not surprising that her reading of Stephanie the violinist was inspired; in this, her first First Stages appearance, she was brilliant and the perfect partner for David.
TALKING HEADS ~ Wonderful Theatre
Arts Council of Northumberland Review (Selena Forsyth) - Wednesday, February 18 2009
The sixties played a big part in the development of my sense of humour. When I came to Canada in 1967 people wondered which planet I was from when I talked about Beyond the Fringe, The Goon Show, That Was The Week That Was (TW3 to the In Crowd) and Monty Python. Those shows were barely on this side of the pond and most people hadn’t heard of them. Alan Bennett, born in Leeds, England in 1934, was one of the Beyond the Fringe crazy people, along with Peter Cook, Dudley Moore and Jonathan Miller, and he went on to be a hugely successful playwright with plays like The Madness of King George (four Oscars) and Talking Heads I & II on his list of major successes.
When I saw that First Stages Theatre Company was going to do Talking Heads, which consists of four of short plays, at the Capitol Theatre I counted the days. Last Sunday the day came and I wish I could find enough superlatives to describe to you how absolutely marvellous the four plays and the four actors who read them were.
First was A Chip in the Sugar read by First Stages Artistic Director/Producer/Magic Man Robert Latimer. Robert read the parts of Graham, his 72 year-old somewhat forgetful mother with whom he has lived all his life and his mother’s new gentleman caller. Robert was absolutely incredible and had us laughing and crying and thanking our lucky stars that we have him and First Stages.
Second was Her Big Chance read by Alex Dallas. Alex is from England and came here with the hugely successful female comedy troupe Sensible Footwear that toured Canada and the US for 18 years. What a treat she was as Lesley, an out of work actress who auditions for a part in a dubious film with dubious producers and directors. She has to strip to her undies for the audition and to her all-together for the filming. She also takes great advantage of the casting couch both before and after she gets the part.
Next was Andrea Risk reading Bed Among the Lentils. Andrea was quite wonderful as Susan, the wife of a vicar, who likes a tipple quite frequently, probably doesn’t believe in God and embarks on a very sweet affair with an Indian gentleman who owns an off-license in Leeds where she goes sometimes on Sunday evenings to buy her booze while her husband is in church conducting evensong.
And finally, Robert’s co-director for these plays, Maria Heidler, plays Miss Fozzard in Miss Fozzard Finds her Feet. Miss Fozzard has given up her job in a department store to care for her brother who has had a stroke. Her chiropodist, to whom she has gone for many years, decides to retire and recommends another to her. She goes reluctantly and embarks on a relationship with the new chiropodist that is extremely unconventional. On all kinds of levels! There are many twists and turns involving her brother — she hires a caregiver for him and goes back to work — and her co-workers, who find out about her chiropody appointments. Maria’s ability to read all the parts with a different voice each time was a tour de force and had the audience at the Capitol Theatre totally enthralled.
Those of you who missed this memorable afternoon missed an opportunity to laugh out loud a lot, to experience the talent of four remarkable performers and to be part of what has become a Port Hope institution: First Stages Theatre Company. I urge you to get your tickets now for the next performance: Duet for One by Tom Kempinski. It’s an extremely moving story about a concert violinist who is stricken with Multiple Sclerosis and has to retire from the stage. Her MS also threatens her marriage. It will be an amazing afternoon with actors Karen Sweet and David Gardner playing the roles, directed, of course, by our own Robert Latimer. It’s on March 22nd at 3:00 pm at the Capitol. The box office is 905.885.1071 or 1.800.434.5092. I sincerely hope to see you there.
THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING ~ Magnificent!
Arts Council of Northumberland Review (Selena Forsyth) - Thursday, October 30 2008
The Year of Magical Thinking was a book written by writer/screenwriter Joan Didion. It was about the sudden death of her husband, journalist, novelist and playwright John Gregory Dunne, to whom she was married for 40 years. He died in December of 1993, shortly after they got home from visiting their daughter, their only child, in the hospital in New York. She was gravely ill. They were at the dinner table and he suddenly collapsed and died. The daughter recovered. Briefly.
The Didion book, which came out a year later, was a huge success but I didn’t read it. I had been through my own year of magical thinking after my husband died and didn’t want to be reminded. To add to Joan Didion’s pain, her daughter died just as the book came out. I didn’t want to have to think about that either.
So it was with some hesitation that I went, a couple of weeks ago, to the Capitol Theatre to hear a play reading presented by Robert Latimer’s First Stages Theatre Company. Joan Didion had turned her award-winning book into a one-woman play; she had included the life and death of her daughter. Latimer, producer, director, actor and tour de force had acquired the rights to the book and had hired remarkable Canadian actor Patricia Yeatman to play Joan Didion. I cannot tell you how happy I am that a dear friend had persuaded me to go. The play and Yeatman were magnificent. Joan Didion has created a timeless document that everyone who has ever lost a loved one should see/hear/read. And as for Patricia Yeatman, there are no words to describe how absolutely amazing she was. She was Joan Didion. Robert’s direction was brilliant; the experience was extremely powerful and one I cherish. It is amazing that we get the calibre of performances that we do in this small town. All thanks go to Robert Latimer and the First Stages Theatre Company. What a treat.
SOUVENIR ~ Funny, Poignant
Arts Council of Northumberland Review (Selena Forsyth) - Thursday, September 18 2008
I first heard of Florence Foster Jenkins (1868-1944) on Clyde Gilmour's CBC program called Gilmour's Albums. (It was on every Sunday for four decades and when he died it died with him. A huge loss on both counts.) Clyde told the story of Florence at least once a year and played a cut from one of her albums, which included a recording from her last concert, which was at Carnegie Hall.
Florence was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, had music lessons as a child and wanted to further her education in the field. Her father said no, but she was determined. She eloped to Philadelphia with Dr. Frank Thornton Jenkins, a marriage that ended in divorce in 1902. She supported herself as a music teacher and pianist until her father died in 1909 and left her his estate. Finally she was able to pursue her career as a singer. She moved to New York where she would host and fund elaborate recitals in the ballroom of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. She was the performer. In 1928 her mother died leaving her an inheritance that gave her total freedom to do nothing but sing. The problem was that Florence had little sense of pitch and rhythm, in fact she was barely capable of sustaining a note. She, however, was unaware of this and thought that the people who came to hear her sing came because she was so good. (She thought she had perfect pitch.) In fact, they came because her concerts were hilarious. The Carnegie Hall Concert was completely sold out; scalpers outside had no problems selling tickets at a huge profit. Poor Florence. She died a month later.
Britain's Stephen Temperley has written a two-person play called SOUVENIR which tells the story of Florence. On Sunday, September 14th it was performed at Cameco Capitol Arts Centre, the first in the 10th season of First Stages Theatre Company play readings. It was incredible. FSTC Producer and Artistic Director Robert Latimer played Cosme McMoon, Florence's piano accompanist, and Diane Fabian played Florence. They were both brilliant.
Robert, pianist, actor, singer, director, producer and all round wonderful person was remarkable in his role. Cosme, a pianist and composer who had a hard time making a living in New York, was hired to accompany Florence and prepare her for her recitals. She insisted he be brutally honest with her. Of course he was not. They formed a remarkable friendship and, despite his frustrations, he genuinely cared for her, enduring the embarrassment of performing with her at her salons and the final wretchedness of Carnegie Hall.
To be able to sing as badly as Diane had to in the role of Florence takes a great deal of talent, a talent which was evident at the very end when she sings Ave Maria in the way that Florence heard herself sing in her head. Diane was superb both vocally (she had the entire Capitol audience in stitches for prolonged periods as she sang her way through complicated arias. I'm not sure how even Robert kept his face straight !) and in her portrayal of this sweet woman of whom a New York critic said, "She was exceedingly happy in her work. It is a pity so few artists are... and that happiness was communicated, as if by magic, to her listeners." First Stages has done it again.
SUNSHINE AND SHADOWS: AN EVENING WITH STEPHEN LEACOCK
The Cobourg Daily Star (Alwyn Horscroft) - Thursday, May 15 2008
Sunshine and Shadows was a "one man show" about the life and writings of Stephen Leacock in which James B. Douglas portrays the renowned Canadian writer and humourist. James Douglas has a family connection with Stephen Leacock in that James's grandfather went to Upper Canada College with Leacock. This connection may be the reason for the close attention to detail in Mr. Douglas's performance. James Douglas has wisely not attempted to imitate, but rather to interpret Leacock and to give us, the audience, some idea of the manner of the man.
The stage is divided up into four areas, which represent, by use of furniture and a few props and some sound effects, the dock outside his lakeside home on Old Brewery Bay on Lake Simcoe, a lectern probably representing his public readings, his writing table with pens and books, and fourthly his armchair beside a small table in his study. The play opens with Stephen Leacock sitting beside the lake listening to the small waves breaking on the shore, and then he moves from one area to another as it applies to the story. In one short afternoon he tells of Leacock's life from the time he was born in Swanmore, Hampshire, England in 1869, his arrival in Canada at the age of seven through to his being "let go" at the age of 65 by the new principal at McGill, where he was a lecturer and acting head of the political science department. We learn that Stephen Leacock, best known for his humourous writings, wrote many serious books, and Mr. Douglas certainly indicated the serious side of life as well as the humour. With so little time to tell of a lifetime of work and family life he drew an excellent picture. In the question period after the performance, one lady said that she had journeyed to Old Brewery Bay to see the museum that has been made out of Leacock's summer home, and for her Mr. Douglas was Leacock.
FIRST STAGES SEASON ENDS WITH POIGNANT, FUNNY CANADIANA
Arts Northumberland (Walter Luedtke) - Wednesday, May 14 2008
The First Stages Theatre season ended with another memorable one-man show SUNSHINE AND SHADOWS, James B. Douglas' funny and poignant portrayal of Canada's foremost humourist and author, Stephen Leacock. Douglas used Leacock's own words to convey the humour, wisdom and tragedy of one of our most revered literary figures. A veteran of stage, screen and television, Douglas has played over 150 major roles in Canada, Britain and the United States and his immense theatre experience once more produced a well-honed, nuanced performance.
Luring some of Canada's best known actors to The Capitol, Artistic Director Robert Latimer's FST has garnered a loyal audience and has brought splendid 'serious' theatre to our area.
THE RETREAT FROM MOSCOW ~ I have never experienced anything quite like it.
Arts Council of Northumberland Review (Selena Forsyth) - Thursday, March 20 2008
It was the worst snow storm of the season the day before, so director Robert Latimer and the actors - Jillian Cook, Julian Mulock and Mark Ellis - did not even meet until noon on the day of the 3:00 p.m. performance at The Capitol Theatre in Port Hope. They ran through the play once and then it was 'curtain' time. The performance I'm talking about was the First Stages Theatre Company reading of the William Nicholson play The Retreat From Moscow. How well do we know the people we marry? Is it wrong to decide it's time to be honest? Is love enough to save a family? In The Retreat From Moscow William Nicholson, the celebrated author of Shadowlands, tells the powerful story of a husband who decides to be truthful in his marriage, and of the wife and son whose lives will never be the same again.
Edward and Alice have been married for thirty-three years. He is a teacher at a boys' school, perfectly at home with his daily crossword and lately engrossed in reading about Napoleon's costly invasion of Moscow. She is an observant Catholic, exacting and opinionated, and has been collecting poems about lost love for a new anthology. Jamie, their diffident thirty-two year old son, is visiting for the weekend when Edward announces he has met another woman. With intensity, empathy and great humour The Retreat From Moscow examines the fallout of a shattered marriage. The reviews after the play's debut on Broadway were superb. Not surprising. The play is magnificently crafted and these three actors gave a performance in Port Hope that was truly memorable. These performances are truly some of the best theatre you will experience.
SIX DANCE LESSONS IN SIX WEEKS ~ Witty, poignant
Arts Council of Northumberland Review (Selena Forsyth) - Wednesday, February 13 2008
The only negative thing I have to say about "SIX DANCE LESSONS IN SIX WEEKS" is that there was only one opportunity to see it. If you weren't there on Sunday, February 10th you've missed it and that's a shame. It was the latest in the First Stages Theatre Company play readings at the Cameco Capitol Arts Centre and what a treat it was. Written by Richard Alfieri it's a witty and ultimately poignant comedy about love, loss and companionship. The dialogue is fast-paced and often LOL funny. And it's delivered by two actors who are perfectly chosen for their parts. Corinne Conley has had an extraordinary career that has taken her to Broadway, London's West End and Hollywood. Thom Currie has worked as an actor, director, producer and playwright across North America and in Europe. The play's director is enjoying his 35th year in the entertainment field where he has performed in and produced and directed theatre in Europe, the United States and across Canada. It's pretty amazing when you think about it: internationally acclaimed artists bringing their talents to Port Hope.
WRONG TURN AT LUNGFISH ~ Another Triumph for First Stages
Arts Council of Northumberland Review (Walter Luedtke) - Friday, April 20 2007
Last Saturday's playreading was another satisfying experience of pure theatre.
As a growing number of Northumberland theatre lovers are discovering, the play readings are really "staged concert readings" where the actors read from the script without sets, costumes or props. The lack of rehearsals brings an unforced freshness and spontaneity to the interpretations of the players.
LUNGFISH again featured veteran actor David Gardner, a master of the raised eyebrow and the throw-away line, who can bring to his portrayals of crochety codgers new touches that convince. But the real star of the show was Kristin Gauthier portraying a tough/tender street waif with a strident Brooklyn voice and accent and an errant lock of hair, constantly brushed back. Jenni Burke as the Nurse was perfectly bustling with rolling eyes and candy-coated threats, and Vince Staltari was convincingly thuggish.
Artistic director Robert Latimer was also present, reading the stage directions - a happy touch because it allows the audience to stage the play in their imagination. This device elevates language and the actors' facial expressions to the centre of attention.
A question and answer session usually follows, but on this occasion the audience was stunned by the poignant ending and at first the questions were rather sparse. Later on the questions poured forth and the actors were thoroughly examined.
This performance was a pleasant contrast to the strident 'shock productions' this reviewer recently endured on the most renowned German stages.
THE FAITH HEALER on St. Patrick's Night
The Port Hope Evening Guide (Selena Forsyth) - Wednesday, March 28 2007
You could have heard a shamrock drop in the Capitol Theatre on St. Patrick's night. First Stages Theatre Company under the directorship of Robert Latimer presented the play FAITH HEALER by Brian Friel. I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that the experience was one of the most riveting I have ever experienced in a theatre.
The three actors, Kevin Kennedy, Mary Durkan and Stephen Welch read the parts of a faith healer, his wife and his manager who each tell their version of events when they traveled through Scotland, Wales and Ireland. The play consists of four monologues, beginning and ending with Kennedy as the faith healer. It was the most powerful theatre I have ever seen or heard and each of those monologues left me breathless. I was not alone.
After the performance Robert Latimer went on stage with the actors for the usual question and answer session. Several audience members stood and said exactly what the rest of us were feeling. If you weren't there you missed something exceptional; I urge you not to let that happen again. Thanks to the generosity of founder Diana Reis, First Stages and Robert Latimer are two wonderful gifts to this county. We are very privileged.
FAITH HEALER ~ Capitol audience raves about First Stages production
The Port Hope Evening Guide (Eileen Argyris) - Friday, March 23 2007
In FAITH HEALER, an Ireland that doesn't exist anymore is the one that captures our imaginations - the Ireland of simple people's beliefs in magic and superstition, of wayside pubs and fierce drunken men with ready fists and lovely colleens by their sides. What exists - and what doesn't exist - is left very much to the imagination of the audience as three players, a faith healer, his wife and his manager, recall their tempestuous life together travelling in Scotland and Wales and finally, Ireland - not England because "the Celts are more receptive". The Irish accents never missed a note, mainly because Kevin Kennedy in the title role, and Mary Durkan as his wife are Irish. Stephen Welch as Teddy, the business manager, had an aggressively Cockney accent as one might expect from such a character, ("Nuffink like it, dear 'art), though the actor himself hails from Glasgow.
Each recounts his or her own recollection of events and the shocking disparities in their stories tell us much more about the characters, than about what may or may not actually have taken place. Brian Friel's play uses the device of faith healing - in which no one knows how much of the experience is due to the healer, how much to the healed, how much to mind-over-matter or heaven knows what - as a metaphor for all of life, the extent to which perception is reality.
First Stages play readings are exactly that; the actors have a couple of hours of rehearsal prior to the one and only performance and they appear on stage holding their scripts and using very few props to support their storytelling. They are aided, however, by mood lighting and occasional background music. The actors were easy to hear and the play lent itself to the plain stage and the focus on character.
The Capitol Theatre where FAITH HEALER played, appropriately on St. Patrick's Day, was so quiet one could hear a pin drop. The audience was rapt. At the end of the performance Robert Latimer, Artistic Director of First Stages, always allows the cast and the audience time for questions and answers, and among the first to stand up was a gentleman who announced he had been to every First Stages performance since they first came to Port Hope some years ago, "and this is the best I've seen". One woman from the audience noted her father had taught school in Ireland with the playwright, Brian Friel (author also of TRANSLATIONS and DANCING AT LUGHNASA) and had advised him not to give up his day job for an uncertain venture such as writing. After seeing some of Friel's work performed he said, "Thank goodness Brian didn't listen to me". Thank goodness indeed.
VIA DOLORSA a Tour de Force
The Port Hope Evening Guide (Selena Forsyth) – Wednesday, November 22 2006
I cannot even begin to tell you how astonishingly good Robert Latimer was in the complex and riveting play Via Dolorosa. Robert is the new producer and artistic director for First Stages Theatre Company, taking over from founder Diana Reis, and he chose this one-man play to open his first season. What a huge success it was. In front of a packed house at The Capitol Theatre Robert was simply incredible, metamorphosing into the many Israeli and Palestinian roles, sometimes only a sentence or two apart. His ability to take on the complete persona of a character is amazing, as we saw in his past First Stages productions like The Dresser. Diana Reis was in the audience and at the end of the performance went on stage, along with Robert’s artistic associate Costin Manu, to congratulate Robert and to thank him for undertaking the producer/director role.
VIA DOLOROSA a Triumph
Arts Council of Northumberland Review (Walter Luedtke) - Thursday, November 9 2006
The premiere offering of the First Stages’ series of play readings was a total triumph for artistic director Robert Latimer. In a daring initiative, Latimer essayed a one-man show portraying the playwright David Hare’s sojourn to the Middle East in 1997 and the conflicting views of the Israelis and the Palestinians he interviewed. Hare said, “the subject of the play is... what is it like for someone whose faith has never been tested to go to a place where faith is absolutely everything?”
The play has had runs in London and New York, and this was one of the first times it has been done in Canada. The play readings usually take place on an austere stage with minimal sets. First Stages approach is bracing and for this production the stage showed two large flags – an Israeli and a Palestinian flag, a desk with a mini British flag and a lectern.
Latimer shone in his portrayal of Hare with energy and empathy. His command of accents brought the voices of Israeli and Palestinian artists, politicians and commoners to vibrant life. As usual, Latimer fielded questions afterwards and the volume of queries showed that the audience was totally engaged not only by Latimer’s performance, but also by the topicality of the subject. With Via Dolorosa the 8th season is off to an excellent start.