Shaw Festival at Niagara-on-the-Lake

What do you think of when you think of Niagara? If you live outside Canada probably not George Bernard Shaw. More likely a lot of water, tightropes and barrels. But Canadians know that Niagara doesn't just have a waterfall but wineries, the prettiest village in the country and a top-class theatrical festival. I've wanted to come to the Shaw Festival at Niagara-on-the-Lake since I emigrated to Canada five years ago but somehow have only just made it. I'm not disappointed.
our tickets
Eight shows in four days is our aim and we've notched up four so far. But instead of driving to a theatre and braving city traffic we are in a village where the show ends with a stroll home in the balmy evening heat. Tonight a fellow walker on our tree-lined street asked us what we'd seen. We raved about the musical The Light in the Piazza and he left us with a "Oh I'm glad you liked it. I'm seeing it in two weeks."

It really is a uniquely Canadian experience - this much good theatre crammed into such a tiny village. Tonight we loved Patty Jamieson for her moving performance as Margaret Johnson and show-stealer Jeff Irving as Fabrizio Naccarelli. Just a few hours earlier we watched Lady Windermere's Fan, the Oscar Wilde classic with lines such as "I can resist everything but temptation" . The tale of Victorian morals was enhanced with some clever use of music, extra Wilde quotes and an amazing shrinking-stage effect.

Our B&B : 340 Gate
At Three Forty Gate B&B our host Michael tells us over scrambled eggs that around 8 in 10 visitors don't come for the Shaw but for the dozens of wineries. His father's Megalomanic Winery is among them. I'm beginning to think this village is not only the prettiest but the busiest. Do visitors ever leave this place?

The locals seem to have a lot of style
It has a certain gastronomic reputation too as it is in is own microclimate producing not just vines but cherries and peaches. Being British I felt it my duty to test the scones at The Irish Tea Room. I was impressed with the fluffy cranberry version though marks are always deducted when someone says scone and in stone and not as in gone (as it should be pronounced).
Scone testing at the Irish Tea Room
You have to be disciplined when you come to the Shaw - you end up cramming in lots of activities between performances. We spent a rainy morning in galleries, clothes and gift stores but the constant dash to the theatre every few hours can be confusing. We arrived at The Faith Healer last night under the impression we were about to see a comedy. It was in fact the opposite but brilliantly performed. Double check your tickets before you turn up to one of several theatres. The Shaw can go to your head!
More acting - this time on the main street.

For more visit Ontario Tourism and Shaw Festival.

Read the next blog post : Kitsch and culture: The two faces of Niagara.


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