The concept is pretty straight forward - "What would happen if Shakespeare's Ophelia and Desdemona entered the theatre together before our very eyes? What would happen if Ophelia and Desdemona came back from the very swamps of death where they have endured the longest exile?" From the start where the two characters dragged their rotting corpses onto the stage stating that they are seeking the catharsis they never found in life, you knew this was not going to be a typical Shakespearean commentary. The oppression these characters faced at the hands of the men in their lifetimes (husbands, fathers, etc.) were given a modern context by referencing Hitler, Mussolini etc. as well as controversial right wing figure Ann Coulter as examples of how womens' lives are not necessarily much better. However everything was done and said with a wink and a nod so that it did not come across as too heavy handed.
The director's notes in the programme call this "a biting, Bouffon-inspired satire that puts "Man" and his cheerleaders on trial". Bouffon is a modern theatre term referring to clowns who typically point out the uncomfortable truths through humorous mockery. This device was used frequently in Shakespeare's plays and it was done effectively in this play.
I found that the scenes where they acted out their deaths were very effective, in particular where we see Ophelia drowning, done with beautiful fluid movement making her appear to be underwater, while the other actress read out the "to be or not to be" monologue as this gave an interesting context to Hamlet's words. The reading was done in a mocking style as Hamlet mused about taking his life as Ophelia was experiencing the real thing. While I would have liked to see more actual references to the Shakespearen plays, the performances were engaging and definitely held your attention. Some of it was a little unsettling, but this was not necessarily a bad thing. Definitely worth seeing, but very unusual.
"Death Married My Daughter" premiered at the Toronto Festival of Clowns in May and was performed earlier this month at the Fringe Festival of Toronto. It was co-created by Gilmour and Buonastella along with Dean Gilmour and Michele Smith who are co-directors.
Upcoming performances at HTI are Wednesday, July 24 at 9:30pm, Thursday, July 25 at 7:00pm, Saturday, July 27 at 4pm and the final performance will be Sunday, July 28 at 2pm.