Arts & Culture

Local actor shines amid myriad of stars at Bard

By Lorraine Graves

Published 4:09 PDT, Mon August 12, 2019

Last Updated: 4:31 PDT, Wed August 28, 2019

Steveston resident Jason Sakaki shines in his Bard on the Beach premier. The young actor plays an actor, albeit an incompetent one, with skill and grace in “Shakespeare in Love”.

Steveston resident Jason Sakaki shines in his Bard on the Beach premier. The young actor plays an actor, albeit an incompetent one, with skill and grace in “Shakespeare in Love”.

As Sam, the young wanna-be actor in an Elizabethan acting company, Sakaki is cast by none other than William Shakespeare to play Juliet.

In a day when women were never allowed on the stage, young men played the women’s parts. As the bumbling youth, Sakaki is convincing. When dolled up as a young lady to play the romantic lead in this play within a play, he is gorgeous.

Sakaki’s love of acting started young. He credits his Grade 7 teacher, Bob Riddell, at Westwind Elementary.

 “He emphasized the importance of arts in education. In the two years I had him as a teacher, we did about six or seven plays, and they really made learning exciting for me,” Sakaki says.

Amid a company of seasoned professionals. This young actor held his own.

The play, “Shakespeare in Love” is Mark Norman and Tom Stoppard’s movie script adapted to the stage by Lee Hall.

Stoppard and Hall’s script deservedly won a best original screenplay Oscar. Hall is known for his work in movies while Stoppard writes intelligent, witty stage scripts that often poke fun at genre norms, while Hall wrote the movie, “Billy Elliott.” With such a block buster writing team the script is flawless. Humour abounds while pathos and love definitely show their hands.

At the other end of the experience spectrum from Sakaki, is Scott Bellis as Henslowe. This 30-year veteran of Bard on the Beach notes the progress in what has become Western Canada’s largest Shakespeare festival.

He remembers that first season: “We did everything. We put up the tents; worked the box office, hung the lights. We slept overnight to guard the equipment. We got rained on a lot.”

His dedication has paid off. Not only is Bard on the Beach a thriving success that has become a destination event for people from around the world, Bellis shows his honed craft as an actor from the moment he takes the stage.

As a hapless theatre producer, facing financial ruin and certain mutilation at the hands of his former backers, Bellis’s Henslowe is utterly engaging and convincing.

The casting in this production is perfect. Everyone rings true. From the moment he walks on stage as Will Shakespeare, Charlie Gallant is the Bard.

Ghazal Azarbad as his love interest, Viola—and as an aspiring actor in a man’s world—is acting perfection.

Kit Marlowe, played by Austin Eckert, is another stand-out. In fact, each of the cast offers utterly convincing and engrossing performances. With a large cast, it means too many to name in this review, but all are stellar. Including, Kingsley and Porkchop sharing the role of Spot the dog.

Peppered throughout the play are little bon mots that presage plays this fictional Will Shakespeare has yet to write.

At one point, evicting the dog, we hear, “Out, damned Spot.” A line that later will rear its head as Lady Macbeth, in the Scottish play, tries to cleanse her hands and her soul after inspiring a foul murder.

The lighting, the set, the costumes, the sound, and the music are all skillfully sumptuous. The movements, the blocking and the fights are masterful.

This production shows the deep history and skills of everyone involved. For the newer cast members, it is a master class of the highest order.

Sakaki says, “I was exposed to theatre at a pretty young age, and was always enamoured by the magic of it. I got my start on the Gateway stage in 2013, and ever since I’ve pursued every opportunity I could to make performing into a full time job.”

If his turn in this play is any indication, this RA McMath Secondary grad’s odds look very good.

Go to see a young Steveston resident in his Bard debut. Go for the humour. Go for the quality. Go for the spectacle but definitely go see “Shakespeare in Love” at Bard on the Beach that runs through Sept. 18. For tickets information go to

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