28th annual Shaw Festival - Stratford match

The 28th annual cricket match between the Shaw Festival theatre company and the Stratford theatre company was played this year in Niagara-on-the-Lake. The rivalry on the cricket field was started in 1976 by veteran Stratford actor Mervyn "Butch" Blake (1907-2003) , and has become an annual tradition.

The most heated and long-standing rivalry, on the Ontario theatre scene, was again played out on a Monday. This follows the tradition that both theatres are dark on a Monday, that is there is no stage performance. There was, however, a performance on the cricket field, which was not limited to the game, and the drama was played out to the very last over.

The match was played on the Memorial Park cricket pitch specifically laid for the annual event, much like that arranged for the Canada vs Bermuda game. The similarities were not limited to the last minute preparation of a viable wicket, as there were also similar canopies for the scorers and teams. There was, however, a much larger crowd at Niagara-on-the Lake than at Sunnybrook, and much more intensity from the supporters of both sides. The players, being players on another stage, gave the larger crowd much more attention with a performance which demonstrated that they were "amorous of their strokes".  Both teams commanded enthusiasm from the spectators as a whole, which somewhat refuted the idea of the  "poor player, that struts and frets".

As is part of the cricket tradition between innings, a formal tea was served to both teams within the Festival grounds by Shaw Festival company members. Your correspondent can assure you that this graceful gesture, and the playing of the Mozart quartet, was the figurative icing on the cake

The Shaw Festival cricket team is made up entirely of company members, both administrative and artistic. The Shaw team was captained by Shaw Festival Ensemble member David Leyshon while Stratford¹s squad was led by captain Thom Marriott.

Although Stratford had a winning streak for several years, the Shaw team has been the victor for the past two years. This year the many hours of practice did not quite pay off again. The Stratford tactics of saving the best for the last paid off with a win, in what would have been the final over. Following the match there was the a celebration which included dinner, an awards ceremony, and live music.

In this rustic and urbane setting, your correspondent again rediscovered the values of our game which would appear to have been misplaced in other more urban settings. The competition was intense without the angst. I look forward to going to Stratford next year, which I last visited to play cricket in the early '70's. It is noteworthy that the Stratford and Shaw teams have fixtures at the Inverhaugh C.C. every season, and they always play on a Monday.




Thanks to Chris Beard of the Shaw Festival for permission to use his photographs