By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
St Andrew’s Gymnasium
Victoria , BC
Sept 2 | 5:45 pm
Sept 5 | 10:30 pm
Sept 6 | 3:00 pm
No fan of Ian Fleming’s work will want to escape from Casino Royale lest James Bond strips him or her cash bare. This story by Ian Fleming is what launched a franchise and this play directed by Ian Case (a very respected theatre veteran in Victoria, BC) and written by David Elendune (who is equally getting renown) did a great job in pacing out a story that works very well on stage. Usually cold war dramas are tough to manage in a medium outside of film, and for Bond … James Bond, the early works certainly looks very adaptable. His adventures were told in comic strips before. On stage, at the Victoria Fringe Theatre Festival, experimentation is highly encouraged!
In what’s created feels like a classic stage show, complete with prerequisite narrator. Nothing from the story structure feels shaken, nor stirred. Not even Fleming can give a damn ever since this particular work has become public domain. I enjoyed the drama that was created. Casino Royale looked deeper into the tensions between protagonist and antagonist more than the high-tech spy gadgetry — that’s one thing the movies over-emphasize in the later films. Even the fist-fights looked good from my vantage point and the story was understood. I would’ve liked to have seen more props to highlight the slower moments.
The entire cast — David Biltek (Felix Leiter); Montgomery Bjornsön (James Bond); Perry Burton (Rene Mathis); David Elendune (S); Justin Guthrie (M); Ellen Law (Vesper Lynd); Mark Logtenberg (Boris); Wendy Magahay (Loelia Ponsonby); Rod Peter Jr (Le Chiffre) — was in fine form. Elendune’s role was underutilized, and I wanted to see more of him even though I knew S’ role in the story is less not more. When the focus is on Bond and Lynd’s eventual romance and sudden turn-around (most people should know this part of the story), not everyone will get equal presence on stage. I enjoyed how the final moments was delivered. It felt cold, very cold.
The technical aspects, which I tend to notice more, was well mastered. Live foley effects were done by Caroline Mackenzie de Korte (Sound & Comrade Shim) in a quiet corner and they went on cue as needed. When life in the casino was presented, it felt too quiet. I think some ambient sounds of roulette wheels and slot machines could have added to the world. This show did feel like one of those period radio drama pieces but only missing the music. In terms of structure, I did like how Loelia Ponsoby (Wendy Magahy) presented the story: it was being read off a MI5 file.
One detail I could not help but notice is in how Bond looks. I think the hair stylist decided to make Bjornsön look like a very young Patrick McGoohan. The way the hair was swept was too familiar and the glare I can easily recognize. Even the demure is very close at times. I have been slowly watching Shout! Factory‘s Danger Man release so that’s been fresh in my mind over any other James Bond material. When considering McGoohan was the first choice for the film version, I wonder if this nod to the history of James Bond was intentional?
3½ Stars out of 5