Curating the DCTS Guide to Podcasts and Streaming Channels, I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time searching out content from the thousands of at-home viewing options now available that I imagine you, our diverse readership, would enjoy. This online sleuthing has led to some wonderful and varied discoveries: Patrick Stewart reading a sonnet a day, the 24 Hour Viral Monologues, visits with the delightful Bernadette Banners and her Victorian sewing machine. I’ve viewed international theatre, and happily added offerings from our local theatres. It’s all fresh, immediate and changing daily.
So imagine my surprise when I virtually tripped over the one TV series that has fed the souls of actors, directors and everyone who loves theatre for years. Its new home is Acorn TV, where it stands alone amidst Acorn’s British mysteries. It is Slings and Arrows, the Canadian-produced series that has surfaced only occasionally online since it debuted in 2003, and whose DVD set, I know for a fact, has been treasured and shared by actors for years.
I would describe it, but Steven Sulkins, writing for New York Stage Review, also noticed the re-emergence and has already done an excellent job of it. He’s given permission to share his introduction.
He begins by describing the precipitating character, Oliver Welles (Stephen Ouimette):
“An overblown, over-the-hill, bombastic combination of Laurence Olivier and Orson Welles—in the justly celebrated Canadian television series Slings & Arrows—celebrates the opening of his stale new production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at a thriving repertory theater by getting roaringly drunk, not for the first time but the last. Falling face up in the gutter, he is run over by a delivery truck emblazoned with the slogan “Canada’s Best Hams.” He then spends the rest of the three seasons of this flamboyantly macabre and downright delicious series spouting lines and subversively obstructing the new artistic director, a former colleague who—while playing the melancholy Dane—leapt into Ophelia’s grave and into a career-ending nervous breakdown. Alas poor Yorick, as they say; I won’t mention the ghoulish detail about just who henceforth replaces “poor Yorick” after a visit to the local taxidermist.
“This is the world of Slings & Arrows, the altogether delectable show that’s pure catnip for those of us with an interest in, and addiction to, all things theatrical.”
You’ll want to read Steven’s piece in its entirety, I’m certain.
And, if we’ve both done our jobs, you’ll mark your calendars to sit down with the 3 seasons of Slings & Arrows. Acorn TV is offering a free 30 day trial. Plenty of time to revel in the days when a young wildly visionary artistic director has his ethics tested, a Shakespeare theatre festival gets subsumed by bean counters and actors, despite backstage fumbles and grumbles, turn in performances that remind us just how live, and dangerous, a stage can be.