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Slings & Arrows (trailer) was an award-winning Canadian dramedy that enjoyed great critical reception on both sides of the border. It ran for three seasons from 2003 to 2006, produced by Rhombus Media with Niv Fichman as Executive Producer, and aired on Showcase, The Movie Network, and Movie Central. Co-written by Mark McKinney (of Kids in the Hall fame), Susan Coyne (a Canadian playwright, actor, novelist, Stratford veteran, and co-founder of Toronto's Soulpepper Theatre), and Bob Martin (a comedian, creator of The Drowsy Chaperone, which won five Tony awards), the show starred Paul Gross (possibly most famous for his role on Due South, also a Stratfordian actor), Martha Burns (a major Canadian actor and another founding member of Soulpepper, another Stratfordian), and Stephen Ouimette (another major Canadian actor who, unsurprisingly, has also spent time onstage at Stratford), as well as Coyne and McKinney. The show takes place in the fictional town of New Burbage, which is a stand-in for a thinly-veiled Stratford Festival, which most of the actors and creative team have acted and/or directed in. The writers take great pains to note that they aren't mocking Stratford in the series, but there are obvious parallels. The entire run of the series was directed by Peter Wellington. (There are many spoilers inside, and in the critical reception links, for those who haven't yet watched the show). Much

The story follows the on- and off-stage antics of the core people involved in running the New Burbage Theatre Festival:
• Oliver Welles (Stephen Ouimette), the Artistic Director, who has become something of a hack.
• Richard Smith-Jones (Mark McKinney), the Executive Director, the business side of things;a bean counter
• Geoffrey Tennant (Paul Gross), formerly a star within the New Burbage company. He has something of an antic disposition, and a burning desire to always find the truth and passion in every play he directs.
• Ellen Fanshaw (Martha Burns), Geoffrey's former lover (and Paul Gross' real-life wife since 1988) and the diva of the acting company.
• Anna Conroy (Susan Coyne), the secretary Associate Administrative Director of the festival. She is, somehow, quintessentially Canadian.
In addition to the main core of characters, a laundry list of famous Canadian actors either guest-starred or had cameos on the show, including (but not limited to; full imdb list of cast and characters) :
Don McKellar (who collaborated with Bob Martin on The Drowsy Chaperone) as a theatre-hating pseudo post-modern director. He appears in every season.
Rachel McAdams as an ingénue (she unfortunately had to leave the show after the first episode of the second season, due to her sudden breakout in Hollywood.)
Luke Kirby as a Hollywood star recruited to play Hamlet (a barely-veiled reference to Keanu Reeves' turn as The Danish Prince at the Manitoba Theatre Centre in 1995; on the DVD extras, Paul Gross--who has played Hamlet himself at Stratford--expressed sincere regret that he hadn't seen Reeves' performance).
Graham Greene and Veronica Tennant as themselves.
Aaron Abrams, currently playing Brian Zeller on MeFi's favourite, Hannibal.
David Alpay, later to be seen starring on such shows as The Tudors, The Borgias, and The Vampire Diaries.
• Oscar-nominated Sarah Polley, a Canadian actor turned director, whose second movie, Take This Waltz, starred several alumni from Slings & Arrows. Her father also stars in the series as one of the festival's veteran--and queer--actors.
• Comedian Seán Cullen (former lead singer of Corky and the Juice Pigs), as a local theatre critic who is perhaps too intimately involved with the festival. He has also performed onstage at Stratford in A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Forum.
Damien Atkins, a playwright and actor, and yet another S&A alumnus who has spent time on Stratford's stages.
• The late William Hutt, a legendary Canadian actor who has been referred to as a "national treasure", as aging actor Charles Kingman.
Each season is six episodes long, based on the British miniseries model (the original House of Cards is noted as an influence by the writers) and follows the trials and tribulations of mounting a Shakespearian play:

Season 1 (AVClub full recaps):
The tail end of Midsummer Nights' Dream [PDF], followed by Hamlet, with a B-plot involving Geoffrey teaching a corporate teambuilding class (in which Bob Martin appears on-screen to recite the "Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow" soliloquy from Mackers The Scottish Tragedy Macbeth, dammit), and another B-plot involving Richard's seduction by a power-hungry American corporate type.

Episode titles and summaries: Oliver's Dream - Geoffrey Returns - Madness in Great Ones - Outrageous Fortune - A Mirror Up to Nature - Playing the Swan
Season 2 (AVClub full recaps):
Begins with the closing night of Hamlet, and the sudden announcement that the programming of the season has changed, and Tennant will be forced to direct a production of Macbeth [PDF] ("A play that is extraordinarily difficult to stage effectively") starring a major international actor (played by Geraint Wyn Davies) with an ego to match. The B-plots involve a bizarre production of Romeo & Juliet [PDF], and Richard's hiring of an avant-garde advertising agency run by Sanjay Rainer (Colm Feore, yet another Stratfordian) as the director of said agency. The third subplot (it's a complex show) involves workshopping a new Canadian play by fictional playwright Lionel Train, played by Jonathan Crombie (who the observant will notice pops up in a very different role elsewhere in the series, and is yet another actor who has played multiple roles at Stratford, and worked on The Drowsy Chaperone).

Episode titles and summaries: Season's End - Fallow Time - Rarer Monsters - Fair Is Foul and Foul Is Fair - Steeped in Blood - Birnam Wood

Season 3 (AVClub full recaps):
The major production in the third and final season is King Lear starrring Charles Kingman (William Hutt; Susan Coyne had played Regan to his Lear at the Stratford Festival). As an interesting side note, the scenes of Hutt playing Lear are the only known recordings of him playing the role. The B-plot involves Richard finally getting involved in the creative process by producing a new musical called East Hastings, which becomes a runaway success. Despite rumours to the contrary (found in the interview links below), this was the planned final season of the show, and no fourth season will be coming.

Episode titles and summaries: Divided Kingdom - Vex Not His Ghost - That Way Madness Lies - Every Inch a King - All Blessed Secrets - The Promised End
Each of the three seasons is introduced with a different theme song, a humorous take on that season's flagship production, sung by a gay couple who are veterans of the festival.
Season 1: Cheer Up Hamlet (lyrics).
Season 2: I Won't Play Mackers (lyrics).
Season 3: Nice To Take A Walk In The Rain (lyrics).
Almost every episode concludes with the song Call The Understudy playing over the closing credits, a song about being too drunk to perform onstage. Season 2 Episode 1 closes with the haunting and sad All I Have Is Memories (the first few seconds are NSFW; no nudity but TV-sex happens).

All original music for the show was written by Greg Morrison and Lisa Lambert (both of whom also collaborated with Bob Martin on The Drowsy Chaperone), with some lyrics and other work by Martin.

According to interviews conducted with the creative team by the AV Club (1, 2) the three-season structure, and the plays used, were a very deliberate choice. In the first season we see youth, the second season we see people coming to terms with middle age, and the final season is about old age and its attendant frailties. This is further explained in a TVGuide interview with Bob Martin. The series as a whole delves deeply into the themes of artistic honesty and integrity, love and loss, while providing profound commentary on the works of Shakespeare himself.

Interviews with several of the major figures involved in the production can be found here at the Canadian Adaptations of Shakespeare Project. An NPR interview with Paul Gross and Martha Burns is available at NPR's site, here.

Slings & Arrows is available as a complete DVD box set from Amazon, as individual seasons in HD, and on Amazon Instant. It is also available on Netflix, as well as multiple playlists on YouTube (which are often of poor quality, sorry).

For those who like Wikipedia, here is the main Slings & Arrows entry, from which you should be able to find pages for just about everyone and everything listed here. For those who like tumblr, there are (at least) two hilarious tumblrs devoted to S&A.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering (56 comments total) 78 users marked this as a favorite

 
Barely heard of this before but very much looking forward to discovering it. Bravo on the post!
posted by sudasana at 12:13 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


I loved this show, and would recommend it as worth pretty much anyone's time.
posted by asperity at 12:20 PM on May 19 [2 favorites]


Loved loved loved this show! I needed a few episodes to get into the humor, but once Don McKellar appeared, I was totally sold.
posted by cider at 12:33 PM on May 19


I loved this show. I overheard someone talking about it and then binged on it and was so, just, delighted. It reminded me a little bit of Northern Exposure, in the "great ensemble cast, stiltedly realistic, and funny and sad and somehow gentle" way. I found it interesting that Paul Gross, the "main" character (more or less), who I did not know and is terrific, was also the lead in Due North (as mentioned above), a program that I've never seen but that certainly was marketed as a Northern Exposure + Canada. Made me want to go back and check that out as well.

There are so many great things in the show but my absolute favorite is when the long suffering stage manager, Maria, gets loaded at a party and explodes at the actors. Can't find a video of it, but it is worth watching the whole series for.

Alas, Slings and Arrows is no longer on Instant View.
posted by dirtdirt at 12:34 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


Found it! Spoilers?
posted by dirtdirt at 12:37 PM on May 19


Alas, Slings and Arrows is no longer on Instant View.

It was yesterday...

Also, here's Maria.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:39 PM on May 19


jinx
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:40 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


Love Slings and Arrows - so much fun -especially if one has spent any time at Stratford. So great. There are rumors that they might make another season but I haven't seen anything firm. Still hoping....
posted by leslies at 12:41 PM on May 19


Go for it, man! Yet another instance of how-can-Paul-Gross-still-give-me-spine-tingles-while-standing-and-holding-a-toilet-plunger.

Slings and Arrows is one of my all time favorites.

Thank you so much for this post.
posted by warm_planet at 12:41 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


Sorry leslies, but the creative team quashed those rumours, unless I got mixed up, in a group interview in 2013. I think it was in the AVClub interview.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:43 PM on May 19


A wonderful fucking show.
posted by jsturgill at 12:44 PM on May 19


Picked up the Blu-Rays in a second-hand shop in Toronto a couple of years ago -- thank you FFFM, now I'll have to rewatch! One of the great triumphs of Canadian TV.
posted by northtwilight at 12:45 PM on May 19


Alas, Slings and Arrows is no longer on Instant View.

It was yesterday...


Aha! In Canada! No longer available down south.
posted by dirtdirt at 12:47 PM on May 19


Oh, it's a fantastically fun show, though it got rather negative about any kind of theatre that wasn't Serious High Art, Ideally Shakespeare.

But I should rewatch it.
posted by jeather at 12:48 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


This is the Slings & Arrows megapost I've always dreamed of. Thank you, feckless fecal fear mongering. S&A is one of my favourite shows and I hope this post gets even more people watching.
posted by cvp at 12:48 PM on May 19


"Everyone cries when they're stabbed!"

Yep, time for a re-watch. One of my favorite shows, ever.
posted by chaiminda at 12:52 PM on May 19


A lovely show, and definitely influenced my personal lexicon, as I have a tendency to decribe Insanely Buzzword-y ads/companies as "a little bit Froghammer."
posted by Greg Nog at 12:52 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


It's much loved by our local Shakespeare company; we always used to tease our Mackers about reprising Geraint Wyn Davies's bathing scene.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:53 PM on May 19


Mark McKinney is so delightful in this. Him singing Gilbert and Sullivan makes me want to give him milk and cookies.
posted by munchingzombie at 12:59 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


Paul Gross, the "main" character (more or less), who I did not know and is terrific, was also the lead in Due North

I'm sure you know the difference between a hawk and a handsaw, but the wind for the other show was more southerly.
posted by zamboni at 1:01 PM on May 19 [4 favorites]


Shoot ffm - I was still hoping even though nothing more recent in the way of news made it sadly unlikely. :-(
posted by leslies at 1:04 PM on May 19


Warning: Spoilers ahead











though it got rather negative about any kind of theatre that wasn't Serious High Art

I think I'd have to disagree with you there. Given the vast range of theatre experience amongst the creative team and the core cast (Stratford, improv comedy, Tarragon, Passe Muraille, MTC, TV experience, film experience, Fringe.. the list goes on and on) I can't see any of them being negative about anything that isn't Serious High Art.

I mean, the whole point of the show is the focus on Shakespeare and so on, so naturally that's going to get more screen time. I think where the show got negative about theatre was when there was no truth in what was going on, no integrity or honesty. In Coleridge's words, through Geoffrey: "[Theatre is] that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith." I think the only times the writers look down on other kinds of theatre is when there is no opportunity for that poetic faith.

It's also worth noting that in at least one of the interviews they said stuff about loving musical theatre (which arguably got the most bashing on the show), plus of course the fact that something like six or seven of the people involved in S&A then went on to do The Drowsy Chaperone, which isn't exactly Serious High Art.

Plus, Darren Nichols. For the first two seasons he directs Serious High Art, but the writers really zing him for it because, again, there is no poetic faith to be found in his work. Arguably, by the third season, there is a suspension of disbelief to be found in East Hastings (which they didn't intend to be a pastiche of Rent but these things happen).

This is the Slings & Arrows megapost I've always dreamed of.

You're welcome, cvp, and thanks! It took three days to put together ;)

we always used to tease our Mackers about reprising Geraint Wyn Davies's bathing scene

That to me has always been one of the most interesting interpretations of 1/V of Macbeth. As Nahum says "It shows us evil. It teaches us nothing." Which to a great extent is true, and the writers found a way to teach via Macbeth. Then again, Martha Burns (in the DVD extras) says along with Stephen Ouimette that they have never seen nor been in a good staging of it. That being said, my upstairs neighbour SM'd a production of it that featured a (truly) 8-month pregnant Lady M, which brings out a whole different subtext. She said it was extremely successful--I'll see if I can find any reviews online of that production.

As for the fourth season rumours, there would be severe structural problems; the three seasons (as mentioned above in the interviews) were very much about youth, then middle age, then death. The final scenes of S3E6 (especially the dispersion of several of the main characters) would make it extremely difficult to find a way to get them all back together again, especially given how much bad blood there was by the end. I mean, you could mirror the first season--Richard has run the festival into the ground via commercialization and Darren Nichols via...well...being Darren Nichols and needs to be rescued, but that's a bit trite, and really only gets Geoffrey (and probably Ellen) back into New Burbage. Anna can't come back, really. Oliver seemed to leave permanently (my theory is that he is actually a ghost; his purpose was to get Geoffrey back on the stage again, since he was responsible for Geoffrey leaving it in the first place).

I mean, I wish there was a new season of S&A every year until they'd worked their way through most of Shakespeare's canon (I really wanted to see Geoffrey's Tempest), but the three-season story is a thing of beauty unto itself, and adding more would just dilute that perfection. They wrote the story with an ending, and went out before they ran out of ideas. (Plus, pretty much everyone involved has gotten fantastically busy with their careers since the show. I tried to find some sort of 'six degrees' infographic showing the relationships between all the actors and the creative team, but couldn't find anything unfortunately.)

(sorry, not trying to theadsit, should walk away from this for a while I guess)





(spoilers over)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:16 PM on May 19 [6 favorites]


Excellent post! I downed the whole series on Netflix a year ago, and it is amazing. If you've ever had any experience with theater, you'll love it.

It's also such a grown-up story, and not grown-up as it's come to be defined in American TV, with lots of grimdark violence and such, but characters wrestling with their dreams and their limitations and their obligations to one another. Richard may be a heavy, but he's never a cartoon: he loves theater but can never participate in it the way the actors can, which makes him a perpetual outsider. Likewise, Geoffrey and Ellen's artist personae are never romanticized, but shown to have real costs to their lives. And the question they face--which may be the overriding question of the series--is whether being an artist is worth it, given those costs, or whether selling out, however you define it, is inevitable. S&L explores these questions and more in such a delightful way, never flattening out the complications or losing its comic essence.
posted by Cash4Lead at 1:17 PM on May 19 [3 favorites]


Bravo bravo bravo ffff: this is the monster post Slings & Arrows deserves. I've now watched it three times through, and there are fun new bits each time. Also I know the lyrics and can sing along with the warhorses.

Even if the 5th grade holiday play was your only stage, you will enjoy this show: it provides its own context. On the other hand, every amateur/professional stage person I've asked says that Slings & Arrows is spot-on regarding the atmosphere, the dickering, the warm regard and hard work found in creating theater.

On preview, Cash4Lead captured the essentially adult nature of the discourse—not only the swear-words acceptable on Canadian TV. I so wish I'd watched this at age 15.
posted by Jesse the K at 1:20 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


I haven't read all the comments yet, nor clicked the links, but I have to say I *love* this show!

If you've ever worked for a nonprofit and/or volunteered with a community (or small) theater, this show gets so many things pitch-perfect. Even if you haven't, it's a fantastic show, particularly the first two seasons. (I wouldn't go so far as to recommend skipping the third series, but at least lower your expectations just a little, and you'll be good to go).

I've recommended this show to so many people, but it's a hard sell. The premise just doesn't sound fun, but IT IS.

feckless fecal fear mongering, what made you post this? I'm just curious, I got super excited that maybe there was another season coming, or a reboot, or a movie, or something? But, at the very least, I'm going to rewatch this very soon.

Side note: How cute is Paul Gross?? He manages to look like "the guy next door" and "the matinee idol" at the same exact time.
posted by MoxieProxy at 1:26 PM on May 19


feckless fecal fear mongering, what made you post this?

A total and overwhelming obsession with the show since my neighbour first introduced me to it six years ago.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:34 PM on May 19 [5 favorites]


Bravo! Far too many people don't know this show even exists, but should.

This makes me want to do a Made In Canada sub, but the fact that only one season is (barely) available to actually watch makes it moot.
posted by Poldo at 1:48 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


I discovered Slings & Arrows when I was mired in an endless series of revisions for a book that is probably never going to see the light of day, and I loved it for reaffirming all the things I desperately needed someone to reaffirm: the value of art, the value of persevering past the point where you feel like you must be crazy, the way that art can (and must) be grounded in love and community and commitment even when things look pretty terrible, the idea that you can be sad and troubled and desperate and messed-up and still have something to give others both as an artist and as a human being.

It also woke me up to just how great Shakespeare can be when it's done right.

And is thus responsible for the "time fort" joke in the book I'm writing now...

(fffm, East Hastings wasn't intended as a pastiche of Rent? How is that even possible?)
posted by Jeanne at 2:15 PM on May 19


It's covered in one of the interviews in the latter part of the post. They never intended it to happen, it just turned out that way.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:18 PM on May 19


This show is perfect. Thank you so much for such a great post, feckless fecal fear mongering.

The first time I watched it, I caught it when it was airing on IFC when I was in my last year of high school. I tuned in mostly for Paul Gross, since I had just finished watching Due South, and while Gross turns in an amazing performance as Geoffrey Tennant, I got so much more from Slings & Arrows than I was ever expecting. The show taught me a lot about Shakespeare and the value of art. I was in high school and reading Hamlet and King Lear for the first time, and while my English teacher was no slouch, I still learned so much more about what the plays meant from their treatment in Slings & Arrows than I ever did in the classroom.

One of my favorite scenes remains the scene where Geoffrey explains Ophelia's madness in Hamlet. (As an aside, Rachel McAdams was a great Ophelia in the little snippets we see of the play in the season one finale, which makes me wish we could have seen the whole production.)
posted by yasaman at 2:28 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


Oh god yes that scene. "And will he not come again?" Shivers.

The only real complaint I have with this show is that they never actually did the entire play--I think the one we saw the most of was probably Lear. I would have killed for each season to include an extra DVD that was the New Burbage company doing the entire show they were rehearsing. Alas.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:33 PM on May 19 [3 favorites]


Ohhh I love this show! This is a great post, thanks.

There's a scene in the Hamlet season where they're rehearsing the second appearance of the Ghost, and the dumb-as-rocks movie star playing Hamlet summons everything he's got to deliver the line, "Angles [sic] and ministers of grace defend us!"

I still think of that every so often and giggle.
posted by a fair but frozen maid at 2:42 PM on May 19


I loved this show so much.
posted by winna at 2:43 PM on May 19


I LOVE Slings and Arrows. As a professional theater director, it's terrifyingly accurate, and absolutely hilarious. I love it so much, that I watched the shot-for-shot Brazilian remake. JUST BECAUSE I COULD.
posted by geryon at 2:52 PM on May 19 [4 favorites]


Actually this is a much better link about Som e Fúria.
posted by geryon at 3:02 PM on May 19


That being said, my upstairs neighbour SM'd a production of it that featured a (truly) 8-month pregnant Lady M, which brings out a whole different subtext. She said it was extremely successful--I'll see if I can find any reviews online of that production.

I was part of a staged-reading festival where one of the plays was an extended monologue by Lady Mac about how part of their plan was that she would conceive a child by Duncan (Mac being sterile) before they killed him, thus ensuring themselves a dynasty of royal blood. But then she has a miscarriage, and that's the source of the blood she sees during the sleepwalking scene. It was interesting.

Also, I was so shocked when I first learned that "Cheer Up, Hamlet" wasn't written by Noel Coward.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 3:45 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


Martha Burns (in the DVD extras) says along with Stephen Ouimette that they have never seen nor been in a good staging of it.

Macbeth isn't cursed, it's extraordinarily difficult to stage effectively!
posted by dannyboybell at 3:48 PM on May 19 [5 favorites]


Oh, god, S&A is so awesome. I need to watch it again, because I missed a lot, I think. It was still great. Thanks so much for this post!

FROGHAMMER.

I'm amazed to learn that East Hastings wasn't intended to parody Rent, because I remember watching with friends, and we all agreed that some of the writers must really, really, have hated Rent. (And I say this as someone who really enjoys most American musical theater.)

Also, for those who like that sort of thing, Here's Luck did a brilliant fanvid for the series: you can find Sea Fever here.
posted by suelac at 3:59 PM on May 19


Paul Gross is the Canadian actor. There are other actors from Canada (one or two, here and there), but Gross is the only one who has really only played Canadians
posted by Space Coyote at 4:19 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


Without a doubt one of the best TV series I've ever seen, and handles Shakespeare with a wisdom and wit that rarely seen even amongst the best companies. I never stop recommending this show to people, but suspect I'm just going to have to start giving people the DVDs as gifts.


Macbeth isn't cursed, it's extraordinarily difficult to stage effectively!

The recent National Theatre production with Ken Branagh as Macbeth is the only time I've ever enjoyed it. It still had issues, but it was beautifully staged and well performed, especially by Branagh.
posted by opsin at 4:43 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


I absolutely adore S&A! It was not only absolutely hilarious and sharply insightful, in turn, but it actually also taught me so much about the nuts and bolts of theatric production. I was someone who regularly enjoyed theater, but had no idea what, say, a stage manager actually did, or how directors' vision really could shape (or destroy) a show. So it was really fascinating for me in that regard, and led to many wonderful discussions with theater friends I happened to get to know at the same time I was discovering the show.

I recommend S&A to all of my friends and it's also been fascinating to see which of my friends thought it was a total downer (!) and which appreciated the dark humor.
posted by TwoStride at 5:11 PM on May 19


Why is Slings & Arrows not available for me? I wanted to rewatch it, but it is not being streamed by Netflix Canada. It's Canadian.
posted by jeather at 5:27 PM on May 19


A fantastic post about one of my favourite shows. I own all 3 seasons on DVD. Must rewatch.
posted by aclevername at 5:49 PM on May 19


This will surprise absolutely no one who knows anything about me, but I have a deep and abiding love for Slings and Arrows. Also:

I have a tendency to decribe Insanely Buzzword-y ads/companies as "a little bit Froghammer."

Mrs. Example and I still occasionally turn to each other after someone has said something pithy and say "Richard Nixon said that".

Bonus points if it's actually Colm Feore in another role, which makes The Chronicles of Riddick a tiny bit more bearable.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 6:14 PM on May 19 [2 favorites]


I love this show so much - this awesome post has triggered a desire to re-watch.
posted by fever-trees at 7:11 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


that I watched the shot-for-shot Brazilian remake

WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGARBL I meant to put that in and totally forgot! Thank you!
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:22 AM on May 20


I've never had a chance to study Hamlet in school, yet Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead has long been a favorite of mine (you don't really need the former to enjoy the latter, since the title characters don't have the slightest idea what's going on either). Slings and Arrows is my only teacher for Hamlet and I very much appreciate it. (Also, it is awesome.)
posted by maryr at 7:34 AM on May 20


God that would have been a neat trick eh? Hamlet on the mainstage, R&G in the studio theatre.

Fuck now I wish I had a brazilian dollars so I could stage that in repertory. Would be fascinating.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:41 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


Do you mean concurrently? What would you do for the shared scenes? It seems more appropriate for them to take place on the main stage, but Rosencrantz and Guildenstern never leave stage. They're like the players - always on.
posted by maryr at 8:21 AM on May 20


No I mean in rep, using the same crossover actors where appropriate--even turning e.g. Laertes and co into the traveling players.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:35 AM on May 20


Thanks for this post. I loved this show, and frustratedly tried to convince friends whom I know would enjoy it to watch (to no avail).
posted by hell toupee at 10:56 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


Thanks, fffm - this is a GREAT post.

Each of the three seasons is introduced with a different theme song, a humorous take on that season's flagship production, sung by a gay couple who are veterans of the festival.

One half of the couple, Frank, is played by Michael Polley, who raised the amazing actor and director Sarah Polley - Sarah appears in season 3 of Slings & Arrows. Sarah and Michael had previously appeared together in Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.

I've been wanting to re-watch S&A interspersed with full viewings of the full main plays (probably the recent BBC ones with David Tennant in Hamlet, Patrick Stewart in MacBeth, and Ian McKellan in King Lear) ... maybe now's the time.
posted by kristi at 1:46 PM on May 20 [1 favorite]


That's so easy though.

First, you make them smoke... something. Then you tie them to the couch. Crazy-gluing eyelids open is optional.

And then open with the fucking bleats.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:54 PM on May 20


TBH, Sarah wasn't playing much against type there. (We were in highschool together, right before her social activism phase.) Fully 90% of that character was her in grade 10.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:20 PM on May 20


What a post! Slings is one of my favourite shows. Heartbreaking and brutally frank about that thing we do, that dying thing; and about other things more or less terrifying, acting included. The series finale (no spoiler here) does offer Restoration of a sort, but it's also utterly, admirably, guttingly final -- I've always thought the 'Season Four!' chatter was silly, given how well wrought the overall series arc ended up.

When I recommend it to people, I take care to mention that, in addition to being a very funny and touching and ingeniously structured backstage, um, 'dramedy,' this show contains some of the best (and most readily understandable) Shakespeare you'll ever see on a screen. William Hutt's Lear will be with me the rest of my life. Among other things, Slings can teach you about the weird relationship between classical stage performance and the orthogonal art of acting for television -- but then it occupies this weirdo middle ground too, broad as vaudeville in one scene and frighteningly intimate in the next.

'I thought it was good.'

'I thought it was gratuitous.'

'What?'

'The nudity.'

'I thought it was good...'
posted by waxbanks at 4:19 AM on May 21 [2 favorites]


I have a tendency to decribe Insanely Buzzword-y ads/companies as "a little bit Froghammer."

Mrs. Example and I still occasionally turn to each other after someone has said something pithy and say "Richard Nixon said that".


I have an annoying habit of calling all small theater companies Theatre Sans Argent, or humming "Call The Understudy" under my breath while folding laundry and washing dishes.

SUCH a great show. A former coworker turned me on to the series and in turn I've turned three or four people on to it myself. Might be time for a rewatch...
posted by palomar at 1:31 PM on May 21


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