Slings & Arrows follows the triumphs, tragedies and antics behind and in front of the curtain at the fictional New Burbage theatre festival. Each year New Burbage (a fictionalized version of Ontario’s Stratford festival) puts on a different Shakespearian play, Hamlet in the first season, MacBeth in the second and finally King Lear. You don’t have to be an English major to enjoy it, but Shakespeare lovers and drama geeks will get an extra kick out of it. The show was created by Mark McKinney (from The Kids in the Hall), Susan Coyne and Bob Martin; and the starring cast is a who’s who of Canadian television actors sure to inspire many games of “what have I seen that guy in?” The hunky Mountie from Due South, Paul Gross stars as actor Geoffrey Tennant, who returns to the festival now that he’s nearly bankrupt after having a nervous breakdown playing Hamlet seven years earlier. Back at New Burbage, Geoffrey returns to acting and acting up. He takes over for director Oliver Welles (Steven Ouimette) after Oliver falls over drunk and is run over by a truck of hams. Oliver begins to haunt Geoffrey much like the ghost of Hamlet’s father, only snarkier. Season one also stars Gross’s real-life wife Martha Burns as his former flame actress Ellen Fanshaw, Mark McKinney as Richard Smith-Jones, a scheming festival manager looking to sell out, and Rachel McAdams as a young ingénue actress as life quickly imitated art and McAdams herself became well known. Season 2 features Colm Feore (who played the title role in the CBC movie Trudeau) and Geraint Wyn Davies (who played the vampire detective in Forever Knight) as an actor playing MacBeth, directed by Geoffrey, which of course, doesn’t go exactly as planned. Season 2 plays Sundays at 9 pm on Showcase. Season one and two are available on DVD.
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