A Summer’s Eve at Vancouver’s Bard on the Beach

Both Much Ado About Nothing and Antony and Cleopatra feature the same stellar cast, so why choose between a comedy and a tragedy - see both!

Credit: David Blue, courtesy Bard on the Beach

John Murphy and Jennifer Lines play reluctant lovers Benedick and Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing

There’s nothing quite like spending a summer’s eve under the stars with the Bard.

In fact, one of the sure signs summer has arrived in Vancouver is the presence of the white tents in Vanier Park which celebrate couplets and sonnets, comedies and tragedies, kings and queens, and some of the best sunsets you’ve ever experienced while watching a theatrical production.

Bard on the Beach: Not Just for Tourists

Bard on the Beach has been a Vancouver summer staple for 21 years, but if you live in the city, it can become one of those tourist-in-your-own-town activities you forget exists until the right opportunity arises – out-of-town guests looking for a quintessential Vancouver experience, or in this case, a generous invite.

So off I went to see two of the plays that promise to be Bard on the Beach’s most popular offerings this summer: Much Ado About Nothing and Antony and Cleopatra.

See Both: Much Ado About Nothing and Antony and Cleopatra

If choosing a production makes you cringe, then let me assure you it makes sense to see both of these plays. They both feature the same cast—and a stellar cast at that—and you get to experience both a comedy and a tragedy—two of Shakespeare’s finest.

In the comedy Much Ado About Nothing, leads John Murphy (Benedick) and Jennifer Lines (Beatrice) play feisty if antagonistic characters who unceremoniously fall for the carefully crafted trickery of their cohorts, convinced their respective frenemy has fallen in love with them and that they should reciprocate.

They truly are a wonderful couple through their fits and fights, and the chemistry between them is palpable. Their spirited tongues and incredible talent make them an absolute joy to watch, alongside a supporting cast that takes their energetic lead and supplies it with ample wood for the fire.

The tragedy, Antony and Cleopatra, features Lines in the lead role once again, this time as the Queen of Egypt. Here she is paired with Andrew Wheeler, who injects Shakespeare’s Marc Antony with the relative softness of the modern male, as he oscillates between his desire to live the high life with his mistress in Egypt and tend to his duties as ruler of Rome. As with most tragedies, there is more blood and anguish in the latter play, while the former titillates and teases.

Sunsets and Vancouver Theatre Go Hand in Hand

Sure, you might already know how they end, but the true joy in these renditions of Bard lies in their enchanted setting. Watching the sun set on Vancouver’s pseudo Rome and Cairo may not at all resemble what Shakespeare intended, but it certainly adds a little magic to a summer’s eve in fair Vancouver.

Bard on the Beach runs until September 25. See the full lineup of plays and get more info at https://www.bardonthebeach.org.