(TORONTO, ON) – The Stratford Festival’s Timon of Athens comes to the big screen later this April at select Cineplex Odeon theatres throughout Canada. The plot is relatively simple, but the dialogue is full of wit and wisdom that one viewing will simply not cover.
I suppose that is typical Shakespeare. He keeps you coming back for more.
Lord Timon is a wealthy Athenian who is generous with his “friends” to a fault. The more he is flattered the more his generosity exudes.
His so-called friends surround him as he doles out expensive gifts and favours, even freeing a debtor from debtor’s prison. Timon provides a dowry for his servant so that he can marry a woman above his social status. Timon believes men are born to give benefits.
If he is a fool in delving out his fortunes at least he is good hearted and assumes that all his friends are just as good hearted as he is.
One friend, Apamantus, who is not afraid to mince his words, openly criticizes Timon about his flattery induced generosity. Apamantus is very skillfully played by Ben Carlson, who is convincing with his droll and cutting sarcasm. As far as he is concerned, Timon’s friends are knaves and dogs.
Apamantus wishes he would never be so weak as to trust a man on his oath or bond. With such an attitude, he is a perfect foil to Timon. His view is that Timon’s “best” friend would slit his throat in an instant for wealth and riches. He’s the bitter cynic and Timon the irresponsible optimist.
Besides, Apamantus is about the only true friend Timon has, along with his steward, his personal staff, and Captain Alcibiades.
Half way through the play the game plan changes as Timon realizes he is bankrupt. As his steward says, “Riotous feeders have been set on you. When the wealth is gone the flies of winter disappear.”
Timon assumes his friends will come to his rescue but, in fact, his friends are actually the creditors. Timon is shocked none come to his aid.
He decides to invite these friends to a banquet where he rips into their greed and disloyalty and chases them out of his house, calling them reeking villains, wolves, and vipers. Too bad Timon paid no attention to Apamantus when he said, “Friendship is full of dregs. Honest fools lay out their wealth on curtsies.”
Timon becomes an angry beggar. Joseph Ziegler, as Timon, excels as a deceived and wronged man. It is Captain Alcibiades that stands up for Timon against his creditors and, as a result, is banished from Athens by the Senate, but vowing to return to seize the city
Matters change for Timon while digging for vegetables. He discovers a large cache of gold, much of which he gives to Alcibiades.
But, wealth only means corruption and flattery of Timon, as evidenced by his old friends begging forgiveness when they hear of his cache of gold. He rejects their friendship by saying they will have their throats to answer to. Alcibiades, on the verge of capturing the city, will not look kindly on the senators who have banished him.
Timon dies a wise poor man. This is better than watching a good-hearted rich fool being milked dry by friends.
Timon of Athens will play select Cineplex Odeon theatres in Canada beginning April 22. Runtime is 165 minutes and is directed for the stage by Stephen Ouimette and for film by Barry Avrich.
The film, set in modern times, works well and is a testament to Shakespeare’s story telling.