Ottawa's NAC theatre season inspired by classics

The National Arts Centre in Ottawa is reaching back to the classics in its 2007-08 English-language theatre season, but with a Canadian flavour.

The National Arts Centrein Ottawa is reaching back to theclassics in its 2007-08 English-language theatre season, but givingthese works with a Canadian flavour.

Artistic director Peter Hinton announced an NACseason withnine plays on Tuesday, including both works from the English Renaissance and Restoration and modern plays inspired by those works.

"We're looking at the history and tradition of theatre," Hinton said in an interview with CBC Arts Online.

"We're looking to these great works to give the answers of where we've been, but also where we are today."

Molière's Le Malade imaginaire, Shakespeare's Macbeth and a version of Julius Caesar are on the schedule, but each has a Canadian twist.

Le Malade Imaginaire, or Dying to be Sick is a fresh translation of a witty, cynical classictranslated by Adrienne Clarkson, the former governor general,and John Van Burek, the artistic director of Toronto's Pleiades Theatre.

Pleiades Theatre is co-producing the work, which has been given "a fresh perspective fromAdrienne Clarkson," Hinton said.

Hinton himself will direct Macbeth in a co-production with Edmonton's Citadel Theatre featuring veterans Benedict Campbell and Diane D'Aquila in the leading roles.

MacBeth and the Restoration comedy The Way of the World, a play by William Congreve that premiered in 1700, are the only classics that will stick to the tried-and-true script.

The version of Julius Caesar NAC plans is a revisioning of the Shakespearean play byYvette Nolan, the artistic director of Native Earth Performing Arts in Toronto, and Shakespeare scholar Kennedy C. MacKinnon.

Called Death of a Chief, it is a look at political leadership, created with elements of aboriginal culture including drumming and singing. The play fulfills one of Hinton's pledges as artistic director — to include more work by aboriginal artists.

"One of the interesting things about Shakespeare is that you can look at the plays with different lenses," Hinton said.

In keeping with the Shakespearean theme, the season also includes the world premiere of Shakespeare's Dog,a new comedy based on Leon Rooke's award-winning novel about the dogs in the bard's life. It will be co-produced with Winnipeg's Manitoba Theatre Centre.

Also making its world premiere is Falstaff, a play about one of Shakespeare's most compelling characters, written by former NAC artistic director John Wood, andAnd All for Love, a new play examining the advent of women on stage in England by Canadian playwright Alison Lawrence.

The centrepiece of the season will be the world premiere of The Penelopiad, a co-production with the Royal Shakespeare Company of a classical Homeric tale as reinterpreted by Margaret Atwood.

"It is a contemporary writer taking an old myth and looking at it through another perspective," Hinton said.

Seven Canadian actresses and six Britons are to star in stagings on both sides of the Atlantic. The play will open in Stratford upon Avon on Aug. 2 and beginsits run in Ottawa on Sept. 21.