top of page

'On The Razzle' by Tom Stoppard

Now onstage at Shaw Festival, Royal George Theatre

Now onstage at Shaw Festival, Royal George Theatre

Dave Rabjohn

Etymology is fun – well, maybe an acquired taste at best. But this reviewer recently learned, from Bob Hetherington’s essay in the program, that the word ‘farce’ originates from a French verb meaning ‘stuffed.’ Theatrically, it was used to describe comic bits inserted between the more serious scenes in a performance. ‘Stuffed’ may not be a very elegant descriptor of Tom Stoppard’s play, but it was undoubtedly crammed full of entertainment – simply, ‘On the Razzle’ dazzles.

‘On the Razzle’ is now playing through the summer and fall at the Shaw Festival in the warmly intimate Royal George Theatre. Quick history – the play is adapted from a nineteenth-century Austrian play by Johann Nestroy – ‘Einen Jux will sich machen.’ Thornton Wilder used it as a basis for ‘The Matchmaker’, adding the extra plot line of Dolly Levi. In turn, it became the hugely popular musical ‘Hello Dolly.’

This production is anchored by two spectacular performances by Kristi Frank (Christopher) and Mike Nadajewski (Weinberl.) The two young working-class merchants have resolved to give up their responsibilities for a day and head in to town for a fling (a razzle.) Their draconian boss Zangler (stylishly played by Ric Reid) is also in town where mistaken identity and mayhem ensues.

Adding to the fun is Zangler’s young ward Marie (Lindsay Wu), dreamily in love with Sonders (Drew Plummer) as she tries to escape her uncle’s control. Of course, they all end up in the same place as doors flap open and shut and ladders spin out of control.

As mentioned, the comic performances by the two young rascals feed the rest of the cast. Their movements are almost cartoonish with legs and arms constantly akimbo. Ms. Frank delights with comic faces – one moment she appears to have bitten into a lemon and the next into an apple pie. Mr. Nadajewski’s physicality puts us in mind of a Mr. Bean while his vocal antics are hilarious.

This is a full on period piece from near the turn of the nineteenth century. Set and costumes designed by Christina Poddubiuk are spectacular in precision and colour. Adding to her challenge is the fact that many costumes come on and off onstage and some have to be versatile enough to add to the mistaken identity routines. The set brims with doors, corners and pockets to facilitate the hectic blocking. Projections by Jamie Nesbitt are both subtle and Monty Pythonish giving a charming sense of both rural and urban Austria.

Craig Hall’s direction is superb – conducting this circus like production would certainly be a challenge. A nod also to stage manager Amy Jewell and her team for keeping so many balls in the air at once.
This is not one of Tom Stoppard’s more sophisticated philosophic comedies. It has been described as a ‘lark’ but it is still riddled with Stoppard’s unique ability with language and phrasing. Malapropisms, puns and inventive dialogue are unrestrained. Full-throated comic delight is guaranteed.

‘On the Razzle’ by Tom Stoppard
Performers: Jason Cadieux, Kristi Frank, Julie Lumsden, Patrick Galligan, Elodie Gillett, Alexandra Gratton, Claire Jullien, Graeme Kitagawa, Mike Nadajewski, Drew Plummer, Ric Reid, Tara Rosling, Jonathan Tan, Taurian Teelucksingh, Lindsay Wu
Director: Craig Hall
Set and costume design: Christina Poddubiuk
Lighting design: Kimberly Purtell
Projections: Jamie Nesbitt
Stage manager: Amy Jewell

Production runs through: October 8, 2023.

Abstract Building
Black on Transparent_edited.png
bottom of page