As the rest of the world increasingly seeks out entertainment through a video screen, I continue to be fascinated by live theatre. I see almost anything I can from the Toronto Fringe Festival, Soulpepper, Canadian Stage, Factory Theatre, Tarragon, Buddies in Bad Times to major Mirvish and Dancap productions. I am mesmerized by them all, even when I think they’re bad theatre. I see almost everything on the Stratford Festival playbill each summer, ditto the Shaw Festival. Theatre is always on my list when I travel to New York or London. And I have been privileged over the years to see many theatre legends perform live — Maggie Smith, Glenda Jackson, Peter O’Toole, our own Oscar winning Christopher Plummer, Bill Hut, Morgan Freeman, Lauren Bacall – who my friend Doreen, who is her friend, calls “Betty” – and saw Elizabeth Taylor do Little Foxes. I am so devoted I commit considerable time to Theatre Museum Canada ,an organizaton dedicated to Canada’s theatre heritage.
But I don’t think I will see War Horse at the Princess of Wales Theatre. It isn’t because I don’t think it will be extraordinary theatre, but because I am afraid it will. I absolutely know that within five seconds I will believe those puppets are real horses and I will be absolutely riveted by the travesty of war.
I find I have become increasingly sensitive to the plight of aimals, both domestic and wild. We have become so focused on our own rights and privileges, we increasingly destroy habitat and the environment, crowd other creatures out, confine them in horrible conditions and in the food chain dispense them with remarkable indifference. I squirm when I see a snout sticking out of a transport truck on the highway. I could become one of those ladies who crochet little coats for chickens. I worry about polar bears and I just can’t bear stories of cruelty to dogs or cats. It never used to be this way. Not that I was ever deliberately cruel, just unaware. Then a little kitten came to live with me — I wasn’t too keen on cats up to that point so I assure you anyone can be converted. Living with another creature seemed to open my eyes to the entire universe of other life we share the planet with. (Please excuse the dangler.)
All of which brings me to the subject of horses. The Toronto Star had a heartwarming story in the Sunday edition about an Irishman who rescues horses. It seems that during the Celtic Tiger, the Irish were buying horses as status symbols the way North Americans buy cars. Then with the crash, they were simply abandonning them. The story had a happy ending for some of them so I was able to read it – but I had to skip the parts on abuse. How can people continue to be such jerks when it comes to animals they take on as pets?
I was at the ballet the other night to see La Fille Mal Gardeé and in one scene the peasants bring in a cart led by a live pony. I completely lost my focus. All I could think about was what breed was it, and where did it come from, who would parade their animal around like that and why couldn’t the ballet get one of those damned puppets. I just couldn’t refocus on the ballet which is why I might just as well stay home from War Horse.