Review: Measure for Measure (Canadian Stage)

Canadian Stage returns with Measure for Measure in Shakespeare in High Park for Toronto audiences

Canadian Stage returns to the beautiful outdoor ampitheatre in High Park for another summer of Shakespeare in High Park. This year, the two selections from the Bard are Measure for Measure and Much Ado About Nothing. A bit of a departure this year as Canadian Stage has opted to do a comedy and a, well, dramedy in Measure for Measure, directed by Severn Thompson. With witty shenanigans in a rather grim situation, mixing both period and modern costumes, this show is a fun experience under the stars.

This is my first time seeing Measure for Measure and, in fact, I hadn’t heard about this particular play before. Here, the play centers around Claudio (Richard Lam) who is imprisoned for impregnating his lover Juliet (Emma Ferreira) before they were to marry, despite their engagement and the intercourse being consensual. Claudio is imprisoned by Lord Angelo (Christopher Morris), the temporary leader of Vienna who is determined to further drill down on the city’s laws against sexual depravity and make Claudio an example. The Duke (Allan Louis) pretends to leave town but disguises himself as a friar to observe how the city is run in his absence.

This performance is lively and moves along at a quick pace, making the just under 2 hour duration zip by. What truly sells this performance are the actors. I loved watching Natasha Mumba play Isabella, Claudio’s sister who is about to enter a nunnery when her brother is arrested. She’s strong in her faith, her piety unwavering so when she implores Angelo to release her brother and is given the ultimatum of sexual services in exchange for his freedom, her internal dilemma is echoed clearly in Mumba’s portrayal.

Morris gives Angelo all the bombastic hot air a character like his requires. For someone looking to enforce laws against sexual depravity, his personality is anything but and it becomes clear in his interactions with Isabella – so much skeeze! It’s clear that Morris is having a great time playing Angelo.

I also really enjoyed Heath V. Salazar as Pompey, a rogue that is in this performance portrayed as gender fluid. The costuming for Pompey stands out greatly. Costume designer Michelle Bohn decided to outfit Pompey in a very modern punk rock/gothic club kid attire which is a lot of fun to see on stage. When Pompey is arrested, a small collection of sex toys is confiscated from them which I and the audience found hilarious. The scene in which Pompey is asked to earn their freedom by assisting the undertaker is a delight to watch.

My date for the evening Vance, had a few comments about the staging. Though we both loved how the performers made full use of the space they were occupying, even coming right into the audience for a few moments of interaction, he did notice that they didn’t make full use of all the levels the stage provided. The stage remains pretty much static for Shakespeare in High Park productions and doesn’t change. Given that, it would be nice to see the cast utilize the upper level of the stage more often.

Seeing Measure for Measure under the stars in High Park is a great way to spend a summer evening. Bring a few blankets, pack a picnic, get cozy and have a few laughs along the way.


Photo of Helen Taylor, Christopher Morris, Jamie Robinson, Heath V. Salazar, Can Kömleksiz by Dahlia Katz