August 02, 2004

All the world's a stage...

And now for the conclusion of my account of my father-in-law’s Toronto visit and our “typically” Toronto activities. Again, those not interested in these types of blog entries can stop reading this rather long entry now, though this entry also has a decidedly literary focus…

On the Monday of his visit, Ian entertained himself with some tree-seeing at Mount Pleasant Cemetery and other family visiting while my wife and I caught up on some work, but on the Tuesday — Ian’s last day in town — we had a number of activities. Since it was Ian’s birthday, we took him out for a sushi lunch — certainly a typically Toronto activity — to New Generation Sushi, our favourite sushi restaurant. It seems, at least amongst our friends, that people break down into different camps depending on which Bloor Street sushi restaurant they prefer. One group prefers Sushi on Bloor, while my wife and I prefer New Generation. (There are also a number of other sushi restaurants on the Annex stretch of Bloor; anyone else want to name a favourite?)

After lunch, Aven and I got to work on the provisions for our evening activity, to wit we made a picnic dinner to bring with us to the Dream in High Park production of As You Like It. The main dish was Coronation Chicken from Great British Cooking by Jane Garmey. The dish, a cold, curried chicken invented in honour of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953, is purported to have been enjoyed by the Queen and her ladies-in-waiting in a stolen moment during the rather long ceremony at Westminster Abbey. Since the recipe calls for cooked chicken, we poached some chicken breasts which we then cut up into small pieces. The sauce was made by sautéing onion and curry powder in some olive oil, and then adding chicken stock, tomato paste, lemon juice, and mango chutney and simmering. We then puréed the mixture in the blender, and completed the sauce by adding mayonnaise and cream. The side dish we made was a mango salad that also contained raisins, cashew nuts, mint, coriander powder, asaphoetida powder, and powdered chilli, and the chicken was served on basmati rice:

coronationserved.jpg

Here’s a picture of Ian and Aven enjoying our picnic dinner in the Dream in High Park amphitheatre before the show:

shakepark.jpg

It was only later that we realised we perhaps more appropriately could have made something from Eating Shakespeare by Betty & Sonia Zyvatkauskas, a cookbook containing various renaissance dishes. Nevertheless, the dinner we did make was excellent and always one of my favourites.

Our time was only slightly dampened by a brief rain shower, which is quite fortunate given the severe thunderstorm warning. And most fortunately the rain had mostly passed by the time the show started.

The play itself was very good. (You can read my wife’s brief account here.) The acting was quite good, particularly the female lead Allana Harkin in the role of Rosalind. Also worthy of special mention is the fun music in a 50’s style — the play was reset in a 1950’s setting which also made for good costuming options — composed by Marek Norman. I thought perhaps more could have been done with the homosexual undertones of the play. There is, of course, always an interesting irony in Shakespearean plays which feature cross-dressing in the plot since all the female characters were played by cross-dressed boys in Shakespeare’s time. In current productions, which feature female actors, it seems a good opportunity to explore these sexual undercurrents in a different way. Then again, perhaps such heavy handed directing would be out of place in a play written for light entertainment (though there are definitely not-so-hidden depths, for instance the character Jaques). In any case, it was a thoroughly enjoyable production and quite appropriately staged in High Park due to the thematically important setting of the Forest of Arden. Here’s a picture of the beautifully lit stage:

shakeparkstage.jpg

Is it really geeky of me to be quite interested to know more about Shakespeare’s sources, which apparently draw heavily on Robin Hood material?

Posted by Mark at August 2, 2004 01:56 PM
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