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Vile Passéist Theatre's Bartholomew Fair gets dirty 

Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre to make you blush

click to enlarge Vile Passéist Theatre stages early modern non-Shakespearean shows like A Chaste Maid in Cheapside. - CLARE WAQUÉ
  • Vile Passéist Theatre stages early modern non-Shakespearean shows like A Chaste Maid in Cheapside.
  • Clare Waqué
You all know that those olde tyme courtesan types were totally filthy dirty, right? It’s common knowledge. The lawlessness of those Elizabethans is enough to bring a blush to Ke$ha’s cheek. Vile Passéist Theatre highlights the depravity with Bartholomew Fair, a comedy by Ben Jonson about “one hot summer day when puritans, pimps, and puppets collide at London’s seediest festival. With period music, a lewd puppet romance, and one very memorable pig-woman.”

Vile Passéist---started in Toronto in 2009 by artistic director Dan Bray---is one of the only companies in the world producing early modern non-Shakespearean theatre. They focus on Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre, a genre they found woefully underrepresented. Colleen MacIsaac, executive director of the company, talks about how Bray came to specialize in this type of theatre. “He had been thinking more and more about how overproduced Shakespearean plays were and how underproduced the plays of other early modern playwrights were,” MacIsaac says. “He decided to create a company to highlight these brilliant but under-appreciated plays. Bartholomew Fair will be our fifth full-length show.”

The play is based on an actual fair that happened outside London from 1133 to 1855. The fair eventually deteriorated over the years, turning into a “seedy, carnivalesque event that spanned a full two weeks in late summer every year,” says MacIsaac. “The fair had such a reputation that the Victorians eventually shut it down for being too unwholesome and disorderly. The play itself is a cross-section of people from different classes attending the fair, from pimps, musicians, pickpockets and madmen to the higher classes who journey down into this circus of debauchery. More fuelled by characters then plot, the play has a festival atmosphere that’s heightened by the large cast and detailed costumes (by costume designer Matt Peach, who also plays a pimp in the show). It’s a wild ride through the fairgrounds at the height of this event that spanned centuries.”

The play runs from July 6-10 at the Bus Stop Theatre, 2203 Gottingen Street at 8pm daily, 2pm Saturday matinee, gala night on Friday, July 8. Tickets are $20 or $15 for students, artists, seniors and the underwaged. Opening night tickets are $10. To reserve email vilepasseist@gmail.com or call 802-5223.

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