Shakespeare, Reader’s Digest Style

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By Jessie Stones

Sometimes he doesn’t get it quite right, but today he’s where he should be. The spotlight is a direct hit illuminating his profile. He’s dressed all in black, staring into the audience with the ferocious glare of a monarch. Then he begins to speak. And the lights go out.

There were a few problems with the generator during the technical dress rehearsal for 3 Kings, and the lights bore the brunt. But Derek Kealy, who plays Bolingbroke and Henry IV in the third-year theatre program’s final production, thinks that overall everything went quite well.

“At least [director] John Neville wasn’t standing there waving his hands at me again like, ‘Get in your light, you moron’,” he said, laughing.

In high school at Etobicoke School of the Arts, no one would let Kealy near Shakespeare for fear he would laden every phrase with sexual innuendo. Now it seems his dirty sense of humour has rubbed off on the cast.

“Everyone in the show is using Shakespearean language now to make jokes,” Kealy says. “It’s not just me. It’s all about messing with out lines, like ‘Oh Harry, come sit down on my face,’ or ‘mildly kissed the rod,’ And bonoroba is a good one, too. Basically it means ‘hot babes.’’’

Even the venerable Neville, who has been the Stratford Festival’s artistic director and played the well-manicured man on the X-Files, dabbed in the puns.

“We were standing around after a rehearsal one night,” remembers Kealy. “And Mr. Neville was leaving. He sort of looked over and said to me, ‘You’ve got lots of bonorobas with you. Me, non’ in his really deep theatrical voice.”

Neville condensed four Shakespearean plays—Richard II, Henry IV parts I and II, and Henry V—into a two-and-a-half hour production, combining their plots to maintain a practical timeline.

“I think it’s really easy to follow, for Shakespeare,” Kealy said. The show chronicles the abdication of Richard II, the rise of Henry IV and the maturity of Henry V and his ascension to the throne.

Neville designed the show as an ensemble piece and as a result there are no lead roles.

“As he says, he wants us all to shine,” Kealy said.

“My. Neville knows Shakespeare inside out. He’s made it into this beautiful mix of serious and comedy. Honestly, I’ve never laughed so hard at Shakespeare before.”

3 Kings opens Feb. 9 at 8 p.m. in the Ryerson Theatre at 43 Gerrard St. and run to the Feb. 17. For tickets and information, call Ryerson’s theatre department at 979-5118.

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