Wednesday, October 6, 2021




It is not the fashion to see the lady as the epilogue;

but it is no more unhandsome than to see the lord`

the prologue... As You Like It (epilogue excerpt)

When Rosalind delivers her gender commingling epilogue to As You Like It, written by a lesser known playwright (William Shakespeare), she deftly dances through iambic pentameter in an attempt to shed light upon the fluidity of gender, red wine, and men dressed as women kissing bearded meni – among other things. When Cliff Cardinal delivers his gender specific 'epilogue' in his radical retelling of As You Like It, amongst an ensemble cast of singular multiplicity and complex diversity, he frames the unofficial finale/epilogue of his 90 minute tour de force with stories about strong, proactive indigenous women, and how they participate and take action within their communities. These stories act as powerful - at times comical - frequently moving reminders that community action can become a defining force within daily struggles to stay afloat in the midst of profoundly troubling social issues.

Like Shakespearean comedy and drama, Cardinal's closing stories about women are being told by a man. But in Shakespeare, of course, the woman played by a man is dressed as a woman. Cardinal wears casual, contemporary Elizabethan-esque-ish attire giving his stage presence a subtle sense of neutral gendered fluidity as far as costume is not concerned.


If I were a woman, I

would kiss as many of you as had beards that

pleased me                                                                -  Rosalind, epilogue

Rosalind and Cardinal, in their respective retellings of life lived within unacknowledged sites of bodily, geographic, and national disavowal, give their audiences a double sided look into the nature of urban and rural identities.

Within Cardinal's venture into national/global geographic tragedies that might be considered 'Shakespearean' in their intensity and profound social injustices, there are many moments in this incredibly engaging performance that can be aligned with the city and the forest and all that lies between these inevitably land-based sites. In Shakespeare the city is the royal court and the forest is the forest of Arden. In Cardinal's version the city and the forest is Canada, with familial sojourns into specific locales in the U.S.

Not being able to see the larger picture -  the forest for the trees – is a primary problem in Canada when one attempts to discuss the breadth and intricacies of ongoing crimes made against indigenous sites (Canada as a singular/multiple vast indigenous site). We could start with clean water and take it from there. But let's not. Let's stop for a moment and ask, what on earth is this reviewer talking about? He is trying to talk about the history of a country as long as Cliff Cardinal is "good looking." Cardinal says as much about his own physical presence within his take on one of Shakespeare's most popular/attractive comedies.

Like Rosalind, Cardinal is a dual entity – both compassionate and wryly critical - self aware, self assured, quick to make complex, simultaneously comical and thought-provoking over-arching claims, and then skilfully able to unpack them and deconstruct the intricate and complicated histories behind them. His onstage persona is filled with charm, physical prowess, and agility as he navigates tightly conceived, subtle blocking and emotional expression that takes him from centre stage and back again throughout the show.

After all - the world is a stage, as Jacques so aptly puts it in his famous As You Like It soliloquy, and the men and women merely players. Cardinal - and his deceptive ensemble - is a truly gifted player as he entertains, enlightens, and effectively 'tricks' his audience into believing in the power of theatre as a vehicle for social change, when in fact, as he mentions slyly at the beginning of the show, social change in so many theatre productions is made possible through the support of large oil bearing entities and/or banking institutions – among other funding bodies. Bodies that are not always the friendliest of allies when it comes to claiming and saving the land that is nature's greatest alliance with all of us.

Like Duke Senior in Shakespeare's Act Two, Cardinal finds tongues on trees, books in the running brooks / Sermons in stones / and good in everything” - and yet, within those very same places he finds the corruption and crime that underlies so much of our national history.

Cardinal's radical retelling of As You Like It topples statues, ideologies, apologies, and recent theatre 'prologues' - ultimately exclaiming something along the lines of - 'well, now at least we know how easy they are to tear down.' At one point he describes himself as "not a particularly compassionate person” - and yet he does this in the context of a performance - a radical retelling - that is filled with complicated double-sided forms of compassion that boldly ask us to listen carefully and be aware that everything we hear may not be quite enough - like an epilogue, a prologue, or perhaps even a land ackn`owledgment. We need to stop hearing and seeing in over-simplified ways - as we like it – to consider and to become more attuned to the very complex nature of language, land, and ownership - and to acknowledge our parts within those vast and increasingly compromised stages.


No comments:

Post a Comment