use ambiguous language so as to conceal the truth or avoid committing oneself.
Equivocation is an original story by playwright Bill Cain, that follows the plight of William Shakespeare as he struggles with the tricky endeavour of accurately recounting the events surrounding an attempt to blow up the King and his parliament.
Shagspeare (Bob Frazer), as he is called here, is commissioned by the King's chief minister to write the play but encounters a moral dilemma when he discovers inconsistencies in the government's version of events. Father Henry Garnet (Gerry Mackay), a wrongly accused Jesuit priest, encourages Shagspeare to, “Answer the question beneath the question” in order to find the real truth. This advice leads Shagspeare on a journey to the edge of peril where his salt and that of those around him will be tested to the fullest.
With only six actors taking on the multiplicity of roles, director Michael Shimata has his work cut out for him blocking the quick changes between characters in keeping with the flow of the piece.
While the play gets off to a slow start, the energy picks up about 20 minutes in and maintains the delicate balance throughout.
Cain does an excellent job of poking fun at the challenges of being an artist, both writer and actor: “What is the name of a person who waits until the last minute?” Shagspeare is asked. “A writer?” he replies. The scenes are played with an inside understanding that the actors embrace with enthusiasm. In their hilarity these same scenes also prove to expound on the greatly underestimated challenges both (within the play and without) face on a daily basis.
The layering of the evolution of the writing of the play with the dramatic action, is well thought out and cleverly orchestrated with seamless transitions that maintain the steady pace of the play: the actors have to be on their game and extremely present; this play is a lot of work for everyone involved and there is little room for error.
Bob Frazer and Anousha Alamian (Sir Robert Cecil) are a perfect balance of good and evil and clearly committed to their characters, and the energy between Frazer and Mackay is palpable and organic. Anton Lipovetsky steals many of the scenes as the flamboyant King James: his physicality and choices are hilarious.
The play is surprisingly easy to follow due to the elegance and clarity of the performances. Given the complexity of the piece, this is no small feat. The subtle physicality given to each character, the layering and gentle nuances all lend to a believability essential to comprehension. The director's choices do not rush the audience nor do they spoon-feed but instead allow, or rather ask, us to use our imagination, which works to invest us all the more.
The experience of Equivocation will be greatly enhanced with a basic understanding of some of the more popular works of Shakespeare, but it is not essential: the play works on many levels.
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