Since June 6th Winnipeg audiences have had the opportunity to see the best in live theatre out at the Trappist Monastery ruins in St. Norbert. 

A perennial, favorite, Shakespeare in the Ruins (S.I.R.) has been a mainstay of early Winnipeg summers for 30 years. It has been entertaining audiences in Shakespeare and adjacent Shakespeare plays, allowing audiences to rejoice in the bard amid the fantastic surroundings of the ruins. 

Iago Speaks deals with the average joe-shmo extra in Shakespeare. Whether it be soldier no. 6, nameless servant no 2, spear holder no. 4 or in the case of Iago Speaks, Iago’s Jailor. The play breaks the fourth wall and asks questions such as, Will the jailor be the protagonist to his own story? What is the point of Stories?  And will Iago ever break free? 

The Trappist Monetary Ruins make for the perfect back drop for both plays. The majority of A Midsummer Night’s Dream takes place in the woods, and the scenic landscape of the ruins adds that extra bit of magic to the play. This is a fact that is not lost on the actor and one of the founding members of S.I.R. Arne MacPherson. As he says, “Sometimes I go into work, and I’m warming up or whatever, and I just have to remind myself what an amazing place I get to go to work every day. It is so beautiful.” 

The Ruin’s also create the perfect set for Iago Speaks. Joshua Beaudry plays the role of the jailor in Iago Speaks, as he says of the location, “It feels really real to me.... the play takes place almost in a void, and the way our position is in the ruins...it does feel like that is my whole world.” 

Arne MacPherson and Joshua Beaudry play the only two characters in Iago Speaks. Beaudry is from Saskatoon, and played the jailor in the production of the play that took place for Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan in 2022. He is also a master of physical and comedic comedy which is so crucial to the role of the jailor. As Beaudry states, “I love his buffoonery! Most of that comes from Dan’s [McDonald] writing which is very clever. He finds great ways of shining a light on the jailor’s ineptitude.” MacPherson, who plays the role of Iago further explains, “In the first third of the play when Iago is silent...it’s just a long series of extended comic bits that are really funny, but also really rely on the physicality of a great comic performer. With Josh and the script, it is a fantastic marriage.” 

One of the remarkable things about Iago Speaks, is the way that the audience is used as a third cast member. The jailor notices the audience and incorporates them into the performance. As Beaudry says, “I gesture to them, I sit by them, I adore them, and I get them to do things as a group.” With this exchange, there is wonderful banter that is created between the audience and the jailor. The twist is that Iago cannot see the audience and thinks the jailor has completely lost his mind in the dungeon. 

Joshua Beaudry and Arne MacPherson also perform major roles in S.I.R.’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Beaudry plays Egeus the hyper-intense father of Hermia and the character of Bottom, who gets turned into a creature of half man and half donkey. 

Macpherson plays the roles of Oberon the King of the Fairies and Peter Quince the leader of the group of idiot-actors known as The Mechanicals. 

Regarding playing two roles in the same play, S.I.R. does not hide this fact. As MacPherson explains, “The play starts out with this tickle-trunk moment where the actors all walk on in their basic costumes and then they open up this trunk and they find things and start putting them on. So, there is no attempt to hide any of that from the audience.” 

The element of the tickle-trunk in fact adds to the premise and plot twist at the end of the play. 500-year-old spoiler alert! At the end of the play the fairy Puck says: 

If we shadows have offended, 
Think but this, and all is mended— 
That you have but slumbered here 
While these visions did appear. 
And this weak and idle theme, 
No more yielding but a dream... 

Suggesting that all who have watched the play...have in fact been dreaming themselves. 

Shakespeare in the Ruin’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs until July 6th, with Iago Speaks wrapping up on July 7th. 

What better way to spend a summer night than with these two remarkable productions? 

For more details visit The Shakespeare in the Ruins Website. 

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