Slings & Arrows

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Slings & Arrows
Slings and Arrows - title card.jpg
Created bySusan Coyne
Bob Martin
Mark McKinney
Directed byPeter Wellington
StarringPaul Gross
Martha Burns
Stephen Ouimette
Susan Coyne
Mark McKinney
Country of originCanada
No. of seasons3
No. of episodes18 (list of episodes)
Running time45 minutes
Original networkThe Movie Network
Movie Central
Original releaseNovember 3, 2003 (2003-11-03) –
August 28, 2006 (2006-08-28)

Slings & Arrows is a Canadian TV series set at the fictional New Burbage Festival, a Shakespearean festival similar to the real-world Stratford Festival. The program stars Paul Gross, Stephen Ouimette and Martha Burns.

The darkly comic series first aired on Canada's Movie Central and The Movie Network channels in 2003, and received acclaim in the United States when it was shown on the Sundance Channel two years later. Three seasons of six episodes each were filmed in total, with the final season airing in Canada in the summer of 2006 and in the United States in early 2007.

Slings & Arrows was created and written by former Kids in the Hall member Mark McKinney, playwright and actress Susan Coyne, and comedian Bob Martin. All three appear in the series as well. The entire series was directed by Peter Wellington.


Slings & Arrows centers around life at a fictional Shakespearean theatre festival in New Burbage, Canada. Each season focuses on The New Burbage Festival’s production of a different play. The themes of the play are often juxtaposed with personal and professional conflicts facing the festival’s cast and crew.

Season 1: Hamlet[edit]

The show's central characters are actor/director Geoffrey Tennant (Paul Gross), New Burbage artistic director Oliver Welles (Stephen Ouimette), and actress Ellen Fanshaw (Martha Burns), who seven years previously collaborated on a legendary production of Hamlet. Midway through one of the performances, Geoffrey suffered a nervous breakdown, jumped into Ophelia's grave and then ran screaming from the theater. After that, he was committed to a psychiatric institution.

When the series begins, Geoffrey is in Toronto, running a small company, "Théâtre Sans Argent" (French for "Theatre Without Money"), on the verge of being evicted. Oliver and Ellen have stayed at New Burbage, where Oliver has gradually been commercializing his productions and the festival. On the opening night of the New Burbage's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Oliver sees Geoffrey on the news, chained to his theatre in protest. Heavily drunk, Oliver calls Geoffrey from a payphone and they argue about the past. Oliver then passes out in the street and is run over and killed by a truck bearing the slogan "Canada's Best Hams".

Geoffrey's blistering eulogy at Oliver's funeral about the state of the festival leads to him being asked to take over Oliver's job on a temporary basis. After clashing with an old rival, Darren Nichols (Don McKellar), Geoffrey is reluctantly forced to take over directing the festival's latest production of Hamlet. Making this difficult are Jack Crew (Luke Kirby), the insecure American film star cast as Hamlet; Geoffrey's former lover Ellen, who is playing Gertrude and dating a much younger man; and Oliver, now haunting both Geoffrey and the festival as a ghost. Also in the play is apprentice actress Kate (Rachel McAdams), who finds herself falling for Jack.

On the business side of the festival, New Burbage manager Richard Smith-Jones (Mark McKinney) is seduced by one of his sponsors, American executive Holly Day (Jennifer Irwin) who wants to remake New Burbage into a shallow, commercialized "Shakespeareville".

Season 2: Macbeth[edit]

The second season follows the New Burbage production of Macbeth.

Richard is desperate for money to keep the company going, and Geoffrey, frustrated over what he sees as a lack of commitment from his actors, suggests downsizing the company. A new actor, Henry Breedlove (Geraint Wyn Davies), arrives to star in a production of Macbeth, which Geoffrey is reluctant to direct because of its supposed difficulty (though he doesn't believe in the curse of "The Scottish Play").

Richard finds funding in the form of a government grant that comes with a catch—it may be used only for "rebranding". So, Richard hires an avant-garde advertising agency, Froghammer, to promote and rebrand the festival. Sanjay (Colm Feore), the head of Froghammer, launches a series of shock advertisements and manipulates Richard into accepting them.

Elsewhere at the festival, Darren has returned from an artistic rebirth in Germany to direct a version of Romeo and Juliet in which the actors don't touch or even look at each other, much to the chagrin of the couple playing the lead roles. The festival's administrator, Anna Conroy (Susan Coyne), copes with an influx of interns and begins a romance with playwright Lionel Train (Jonathan Crombie) who is doing a reading at the festival.

Ellen undergoes a tax audit, in preparation for which she is able to explain the "business purpose" of such theatrical necessities as lipstick and a push-up bra.

Meanwhile, Geoffrey obsesses over directing Macbeth, antagonizes his cast and crew, and starts seeing Oliver's ghost again, all of which make Ellen fear for his sanity.

Season 3: King Lear[edit]

The third season follows the New Burbage production of King Lear.

The cast of Macbeth returns home after a successful run of the production on Broadway, where an old friend of Ellen's (Janet Bailey) tells her to think about moving beyond New Burbage. As Richard tries to cope with being a success, Anna must deal with a group of stranded musicians and Darren is back in town, this time to direct a new musical, East Hastings.

Geoffrey, meanwhile, has cast an aging theatre legend, Charles Kingman (William Hutt) as Lear, despite everyone's fears that the role will kill him. As rehearsals continue, Charles terrorizes Sophie (Sarah Polley), the actress playing Cordelia. Sophie is also involved in the rivalry between the young actors in Lear and the young actors in the musical, whose success soon overshadows the troubled Shakespeare production.

As things spiral out of control, Oliver returns to haunt and help, and Geoffrey seeks therapy from an unlikely source.


SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
16November 3, 2003 (2003-11-03)December 8, 2003 (2003-12-08)
26June 27, 2005 (2005-06-27)August 1, 2005 (2005-08-01)
36July 24, 2006 (2006-07-24)August 28, 2006 (2006-08-28)

Season 1 (2003)[edit]

No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
11"Oliver's Dream"Peter WellingtonSusan Coyne, Bob Martin & Mark McKinneyNovember 3, 2003 (2003-11-03)
22"Geoffrey Returns"Peter WellingtonSusan Coyne, Bob Martin & Mark McKinneyNovember 10, 2003 (2003-11-10)
33"Madness in Great Ones"Peter WellingtonSusan Coyne, Bob Martin & Mark McKinneyNovember 17, 2003 (2003-11-17)
44"Outrageous Fortune"Peter WellingtonSusan Coyne, Bob Martin & Mark McKinneyNovember 24, 2003 (2003-11-24)
55"A Mirror up to Nature"Peter WellingtonSusan Coyne, Bob Martin & Mark McKinneyDecember 1, 2003 (2003-12-01)
66"Playing the Swan"Peter WellingtonSusan Coyne, Bob Martin & Mark McKinneyDecember 8, 2003 (2003-12-08)

Season 2 (2005)[edit]

No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
71"Season's End"Peter WellingtonSusan Coyne, Bob Martin & Mark McKinneyJune 27, 2005 (2005-06-27)
82"Fallow Time"Peter WellingtonSusan Coyne, Bob Martin & Mark McKinneyJuly 4, 2005 (2005-07-04)
93"Rarer Monsters"Peter WellingtonSusan Coyne, Bob Martin & Mark McKinneyJuly 11, 2005 (2005-07-11)
104"Fair Is Foul and Foul Is Fair"Peter WellingtonSusan Coyne, Bob Martin & Mark McKinneyJuly 18, 2005 (2005-07-18)
115"Steeped in Blood"Peter WellingtonSusan Coyne, Bob Martin & Mark McKinneyJuly 25, 2005 (2005-07-25)
126"Birnam Wood"Peter WellingtonSusan Coyne, Bob Martin & Mark McKinneyAugust 1, 2005 (2005-08-01)

Season 3 (2006)[edit]

No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
131"Divided Kingdom"Peter WellingtonSusan Coyne, Bob Martin & Mark McKinneyJuly 24, 2006 (2006-07-24)
142"Vex Not His Ghost"Peter WellingtonSusan Coyne, Bob Martin & Mark McKinneyJuly 31, 2006 (2006-07-31)
153"That Way Madness Lies"Peter WellingtonSusan Coyne, Bob Martin & Mark McKinneyAugust 7, 2006 (2006-08-07)
164"Every Inch a King"Peter WellingtonSusan Coyne, Bob Martin & Mark McKinneyAugust 14, 2006 (2006-08-14)
175"All Blessed Secrets"Peter WellingtonSusan Coyne, Bob Martin & Mark McKinneyAugust 21, 2006 (2006-08-21)
186"The Promised End"Peter WellingtonSusan Coyne, Bob Martin & Mark McKinneyAugust 28, 2006 (2006-08-28)

Background and production[edit]

Development and writing[edit]

In the late 1990s, Tecca Crosby pitched the idea of a half-hour comedy about a theatre festival to producer Niv Fichman. Fichman recruited Susan Coyne to write the pilot, which at the time was called Over The Top.[1] Mark McKinney later joined the project, followed by Bob Martin.[2] Coyne, McKinney, and Martin are listed as the show’s creators, with the three also sharing writing credits on all 18 episodes.[3]

Slings & Arrows was produced by Rhombus Media for The Movie Network and Showcase.


Village street with buildings and lamp posts
Scenes of the fictional town of New Burbage were filmed on Main Street in Georgetown, Ontario.

Filming took place in the Southern Ontario region of Canada.[1] The lobby of the fictional Swan Theatre is Toronto’s Ed Mirvish Theatre. Interior theatre scenes were filmed in Hamilton’s Tivoli Theatre in season one and in Brantford’s Sanderson Centre in seasons two and three. Other filming locations include the Blue Goose Tavern in Toronto and Yong’s Restaurant in Georgetown.[4]


In 2009, a remake of Slings & Arrows titled Som & Furia (“Sound & Fury”) aired on Brazil’s Rede Globo network.[5] The 12-part, Portuguese-language miniseries was produced and co-directed by Fernando Meirelles.[1]

Possible prequel[edit]

As of November 2019, the creators were shopping a prequel to Slings & Arrows called The Amateurs about the origins of The New Burbage Festival in the 1950s.[6][7][8]


Awards and nominations[edit]

In its three seasons, Slings & Arrows was nominated for 50 awards across several categories, and won a total of 22 awards for acting, writing, direction, editing, and more.[9]

Slings & Arrows won a total of 13 Gemini Awards. It was nominated for the Gemini for Best Dramatic Series every season it aired, and won twice. It garnered at least two Gemini awards for acting in every season, winning three each in 2006 and 2007.[10][11][12]

In addition to the Gemini Awards, Slings & Arrows swept Best Drama (One Hour) from the Writers Guild of Canada all three times it was nominated, and won Outstanding Television Series – Drama Awards from the Directors Guild of Canada in 2006 and 2007. The Writers Guild of Canada nominated three different episodes for Best Drama Series in 2004.

Other awards included a Canadian Comedy Award in 2005 for Television – Pretty Funny Writing – Series, and a Satellite Award in 2006 for Best DVD Release of a TV Show.

The following table summarizes award wins by cast members:

Actor Awards won
Paul Gross Gemini, Best Performance by an Actor in a Continuing Leading Dramatic Role (2004, 2007)
Stephen Ouimette Gemini, Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Supporting Role in a Dramatic Series (2007)
Martha Burns Gemini, Best Performance by an Actress in a Continuing Leading Dramatic Role (2006, 2007)
Mark McKinney Gemini, Best Performance by an Actor in a Continuing Leading Dramatic Role (2006)
Susan Coyne Gemini, Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Supporting Role in a Dramatic Series (2006)
Rachel McAdams Gemini, Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Supporting Role in a Dramatic Series (2004)

Many cast members—regulars as well as guests—were Gemini-nominated for their work on Slings & Arrows but did not win, including Jennifer Irwin, Sarah Polley, Chris Leavins, Don McKellar, and William Hutt.[9]


  1. ^ a b c "Slings & Arrows | The Canadian Encyclopedia". Retrieved 2020-01-26.
  2. ^ VanDerWerff, Emily Todd (May 30, 2013). "The creators of Slings & Arrows talk about creating one of TV's greatest shows". AV Club. Retrieved 2020-01-26.
  3. ^ "Slings & Arrows". IMDB. Retrieved 2020-01-26.
  4. ^ Torontoist (2013-09-04). "Reel Toronto: Slings and Arrows". Torontoist. Retrieved 2020-01-26.
  5. ^ "Som & Furia/Sound & Fury". IMDB. Retrieved 2020-01-26.
  6. ^ "'Slings & Arrows' is one of the best TV shows you might never have heard of | The Star". Retrieved 2020-01-26.
  7. ^ Snyder, Diane (November 22, 2019). "Mark McKinney Reflects on Beloved Canadian Series 'Slings & Arrows'". TV Insider. Retrieved 2020-01-26.
  8. ^ Ahearn, Victoria (November 23, 2017). "Susan Coyne talks 'Slings & Arrows' prequel and 'The Man Who Invented Christmas'". National Post. Retrieved 2020-01-26.
  9. ^ a b "Slings & Arrows". IMDB. Retrieved 2012-01-20.
  10. ^ "Slings & Arrows sweeps Gemini Awards". Archived from the original on 2014-01-31. Retrieved 2012-01-20.
  11. ^ "'Slings & Arrows' sweeps Geminis". October 28, 2007. Retrieved 2012-01-20.
  12. ^ "Slings & Arrows victorious with big wins at Gemini gala". Retrieved 2012-01-20.

External links[edit]