Slings And Arrows Season 1
Paul Gross, Rachel McAdams, Martha Burns,
Luke Kirby, Sean Cullen
6 Episodes
2 DVDs
The Movie Network 2003-2004
Acorn Media 2006
276 minutes

The tag line for Slings And Arrows, “the real show is backstage” is right on the money. This Canadian comedy drama about the backstage goings on at a very Avon Festival like theatre in fictional New Burbage is a high-quality kind of show not often seen on television in Canada and most often associated with HBO or PBS in the States. Paul Gross (Men With Brooms, Due South) heads a cast of solid actors who give their all to this very weird, dark, and subtle dramatic comedy.

Anyone who has ever been in the theatre is going to love Slings And Arrows and know that if you are producing Hamlet weird and bad things are going to happen. If you are not much of a theatre person but enjoy intelligent writing, dark humour, and superb acting this is definitely a comedy DVD set for your collection.

Season One opens with artistic director Oliver Welles, played by Stephen Ouimette, enjoying the after show party after the premiere of Midsommer Night’s Dream, passing out in the street, and being run over by a truck bearing the logo Canada’s Best Hams: a most appropriate death in some ways. Meanwhile, former theatre star and very troubled actor Geoffrey Tennant chained himself to an old warehouse where he is trying to start a theatre of his own.

Things get even weirder in episode 2 when the ghost of Oliver Welles starts hanging out with his former star and the man he drove to a nervous breakdown, Tennant, who is now artistic director of theatre that drove him nuts and director of the play that made him nuts: Hamlet. This show includes a hell and brimstone priest who rants the eulogy, a request to sever the head off a corpse so it can be used in future productions of Hamlet (and as an After Eight mint holder), and a few other shenanigans.

Geoffrey Tennant’s great problem in Slings And Arrows is he has not seen Oh God! Or Heaven Can Wait so he keeps forgetting that talking to someone no one else can see is not a good idea. Episode 3 ends with a great swordfight between Paul Gross (Tennant) and Hamlet director Don McKellar (playing Darren Nichols).

Meanwhile, romance is budding between a young actress and the Hamlet lead, a TV actor, the financial director and his girlfriend are scheming to replace an important board member so they can overtake New Burbage and put on a play about John Lennon, and the ghost of Oliver Welles is up to a few tricks.

Things get even weirder after this.

Slings And Arrows Season One features some excellent writing. So much so in fact you will probably backtrack to hear some of the lines again such as, “She’s in the hospital.” / “Better there than on the stage.”  This is an intelligent, funny series that brilliantly mixes comedy and drama.


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