It’s interesting how time reflects change, flipping the social norm on its head to redefine what we once thought was abnormal. This might seem obvious to some people, though watching Thought For Food’s production of Measure for Measure really put this into context. Performing the entire piece in the style of a play within a play (already a nod to Shakespeare in itself), the show is set in a Weimar-era cabaret, casting every character as a character from the classic stage tale.
Taking place in what seemed like a cavern hidden from the eyes of the law, it was hard not to become consumed by the decadent culture of depravity that lurked within this dark hole in the ground. Embellishing the hedonistic atmosphere, the preshow offered an incredibly immersive introduction to the world in which the play was being performed, with audience members encouraged to go onstage and order a drink from the bar.
The production itself was executed effectively, offering interesting storytelling devices such as a curtain displaying dark silhouettes of different flashbacks.
The character-driven cast ultimately drove the energy of the show, using both Shakespearean rhetoric and the original songs of composer Melissa Morris. With the help of a small ensemble consisting of pianist Tom Qu and trumpeter Tyler Seguin (also the director of the show), the performers very successfully kept the audience immersed in the world while still maintaining a clear focus on the context of the play.
I particularly enjoyed the overall presence and charm of Margaret Lamarre. Playing three smaller ensemble roles, each one of her characters (Overdone/Nun/Barnardine) had a very focused and articulate objective, and were as compelling as they were outlandish at just the right moments. Additionally, the part of Pompey (Victoria Urquhart) always lit up the room, if not for the character, then for the character playing Pompey. Urquhart kept true to the slapstick charm of her character and his Commedia roots, while still maintaining the obvious presence of depravity that existed on the outer shell that was the character playing Pompey.
All in all, I’d say that it would be a challenge to avoid the intoxicating effect of this production. If you’re looking for an interesting (and relevant) new take on a classic Shakespeare tale, Thought For Food’s interpretation should not disappoint.
Measure for Measure plays at the Red Sandcastle Theatre until Dec. 4. For more information, visit http://thought4food.ca/.