Shakespeare’s Sonnets
reborn via Infinitheatre

A truly unique and historically ground breaking rendition of the Bard

By Byron Toben

Guy Sprung, the artistic director of Infinitheatre has come up with something truly unique and historically ground breaking. And it’s relevant to Montréal, to boot.

Shakespeare’s Sonnets - WestmountMag.caShakespeare’s Sonnets: Transforming the Voices of Montreal is a vividly staged presentation of 32 of the Bard of Avon’s 154 Sonnets. His 39 plays were written between 1590 and 1613. The Sonnets are believed to have been written on the side between the early 1590s and 1603, but not published until 1609.

While there have been a few videos of individual artists reciting straightforward renditions of individual sonnets such as Andrew Barker doing number 10, there do not appear any group renditions let alone choreographic staging of these in the 405 years since Willy died on April 23, 1616 (the same day Cervantes died).

The staging included the eight actors involved donning special masks created by Brian Smith, who had earlier done same for Infini’s Fight On! Part One last April.

I soon realized that the use of such masks did not limit the intensity of the actor’s interpretation, but rather enhanced it. The Greeks had discovered that thousands of years ago.

Guy Sprung, the artistic director of Infinitheatre has come up with something truly unique and historically ground breaking. And it’s relevant to Montréal, to boot.

As the 32 selections were decided in consultations with the cast and as the printed program does not list which sonnets were done and by which actor, suffice it to say that they were all terrific. Included were Shawn Campbell, Charles Bender, Amir Sam Najhjavani, Carmen Grant, Mariah Inger, Ellen David, Holly Gauthier-Frankel and Manouchka Elinor.

Shakespeare’s Sonnets -

The relevance to Montreal involved large-scale background projections of local sites and vistas.

The modern dress involved loads of modern props like cell phones, selfies, mirrors and caps.

The sonnets involve a certain rhyme sequence going back to Plutarch, and iambic pentameter rhythm that were disrupted by various modern inflections and ad hoc cries that might annoy some purists, but I found refreshing.

Here is an amusing animation that explains the structure of a sonnet.

Will Shakespeare’s collection Sonnets 1 to 17 are dedicated to a mysterious pale male youth, “W.H.” and Numbers 127 to 154 to a Mysterious Dark Lady.

Shakespeare’s Sonnets -“The Dark Lady” of the Sonnets inspired G. Bernard Shaw to write one of his funniest one-act plays, wherein Shakespeare, Queen Elizabeth I and the Dark Lady all meet at midnight in the palace gardens. I presented a dramatic reading of that some years ago and am now inspired to do it again.

Shakespeare’s Sonnets continues at Moyse Hall until October 27.
514 987-1774 or

Watch for Infinitheatre’s annual Pipeline staged readings of new Quebec plays at Espace Knox from November 30 to December 2.

Images: Brian Morel

Bouton S'inscrire à l'infolettre –

Read also: Abigail/1702 examines Crucible ten years later

Byron Toben is the immediate past-president of the Montreal Press Club.

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