Behind the Scenery

with optional pre-tour on the Rocky Mountaineer

Join actor, writer and director Jonathan Biggins for a feast of theatre, music, ballet and art including a week at Canada’s two internationally-recognised theatre festivals – the Shaw Festival and the Stratford Festival.

In Canada’s cultural capital of Toronto, enjoy a performance by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and innovative contemporary ballet by the National Ballet of Canada, and visit the nation’s foremost art galleries and museums. Then travel to the charming towns of Niagara-on-the-Lake and Stratford in Southern Ontario to revel in a wealth of Canadian and international theatre, including the world premieres of Stephen Fry’s Mythos trilogy at the Shaw Festival and the specially-commissioned Brontë: The World Without at the Stratford Festival.

Take advantage of an optional pre-tour starting in Vancouver and then crossing the Canadian Rockies on board the famous Rocky Mountaineer train to Banff and Lake Louise.


This tour is part of the World Art Tours program organised by the Art Gallery Society of NSW in partnership with Renaissance Tours.


In the morning, depart Australia or New Zealand on suggested Air Canada flights to Toronto via Vancouver. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your travel arrangements.

Arrive in Toronto in the afternoon (same day) and make your way to the hotel.

In the evening, enjoy a special welcome dinner with Jonathan and fellow travellers.


This morning, enjoy a guided tour of the Art Gallery of Ontario, one of the country’s most significant cultural institutions, containing the world’s largest collection of Canadian art, as well as paintings, prints, sculpture and video art from Europe, Africa and Oceania.

Lunch and the afternoon are at leisure to acquaint yourself with central Toronto, whose dynamic energy powers much of Canada’s commerce, politics and culture.

This evening, attend a performance of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra featuring Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto and Dvořák’s Symphony No 8.


Enjoy a guided tour of the Royal Ontario Museum, the nation’s largest museum, which is famous for its vast and varied collection of Canadiana ranging from dinosaur fossils to art and world history – more than six million items across 40 galleries.

Return to the hotel with free time for lunch, followed by a matinée performance by the National Ballet of Canada. In its world premiere season, the ballet Frame by Frame takes as its subject the legendary Canadian filmmaker Norman McLaren, whose innovative approach to filmmaking and animation made him one of the pioneers of synchronised music and animation. The ballet is a collaboration between director Robert Lepage and the National Ballet’s Principal Dancer, Guillaume Côté.

After the ballet, enjoy dinner atop Toronto’s iconic CN Tower, the tallest tower in the Western Hemisphere.


After breakfast, check out from the hotel and drive to Niagara Falls. The spectacular trio of waterfalls drain Lake Erie into Lake Ontario, and an average volume of 2,400 m³ – the equivalent of an Olympic swimming pool – cascades over the falls every second. Enjoy a boat trip amidst the mists of the falls, and then free time for lunch.

In the afternoon, drive to the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, situated on the shores of Lake Ontario, our base for the next four nights.


The Shaw Festival
The Shaw Festival began in 1962 as a joint venture between an Ontario playwright and an Upstate New York businessman, and is hosted in the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake that straddles the border between their two countries. Its founding mission was to promote the appreciation of the plays of George Bernard Shaw and his contemporaries, and it has since grown to become one of the great theatre festivals of the world, with its aim to present plays written in or about the Shavian Era (1856-1950) – ‘the beginning of the modern world’.

Today, begin three days of theatre performances at Canada’s famous Shaw Festival. Enjoy a morning talk by Jonathan on the day’s performances, and after free time for lunch, there is the option to attend the Tony Award-winning musical Grand Hotel, which sees a disparate group of characters, from a handsome impoverished baron to an aging Russian prima ballerina, brought together on one night in a luxury hotel in Berlin at the height of the Roaring Twenties (not included in tour price; additional cost applies).

In the evening, attend the first in a trilogy of plays written by and starring the eloquent raconteur Stephen Fry (included in tour price). Making its world premiere at the Stratford Festival, Mythos is a humorous presentation of the might, mystery, mischief and mirth of Greek mythology, with Fry leading the audience through divine love affairs, heroic exploits, and the lives of ordinary mortals. Tonight is the first in the trilogy, Gods.


On your second day at the Shaw Festival, begin with a morning talk by Jonathan on the day’s performances, followed by the option to attend George Bernard Shaw’s comic one-act satire O’Flaherty V.C., about an Irish soldier in WWI who returns from the front to take part in a recruitment drive – without having told his republican mother that he had been fighting for the British rather than against them (not included in tour price; additional cost applies).

After lunch at leisure, attend a matinée performance of the second in Stephen Fry’s Mythos trilogy, Heroes, recounting some of the great deeds of Classical Greece – achieved, of course, by flawed and complex heroes (included in tour price).

The remainder of the afternoon and evening is at leisure to enjoy the genteel town of Niagara-on-the-Lake on a long summer’s day.


After a morning talk on the day’s entertainment, you may choose to attend the final performance in Fry’s Mythos cycle, Men (not included in tour price; additional cost applies). Funny, exciting and even personal, Fry concludes his trilogy with stories of the mortals who inhabited the heightened world of Greek myth.

In the evening, round out our third day at the Shaw Festival with a double-bill of two of Shaw’s marital comedies, How He Lied to Her Husband and The Man of Destiny (included in tour price).

How He Lied to Her Husband sees a handsome young poet have to explain his way out of having dedicated his love poems to a married woman. Shaw wrote the play to prove that even the familiar set-up of ‘the husband, his wife and her lover’ can be made fresh again if leavened with “an observed touch of actual humanity”.

In The Man of Destiny, a young Napoleon must walk a fine line between defending the honour of his wife Josephine and avoiding a duel with the most powerful man in France, the Director of the French Republic – all while locked in a battle of wits with a cunning Englishwoman.


The Stratford Festival
The town of Stratford was founded in 1832 and named after Stratford-upon-Avon in England. Appropriately, it has since become the home of an internationally-renowned Shakespeare festival.

The Stratford Festival began in 1953 when Alec Guinness and Irene Worth starred in a performance of Richard III, working for expenses only, in a canvas tent on the banks of the river. Over the intervening decades, the festival has grown to become an internationally-acclaimed fixture of Shakespearean theatre, but now also encompasses theatre from Greek tragedy to Broadway musicals.

After breakfast, check out from the hotel and travel to the charming town of Stratford, in the centre of Southern Ontario.

Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant, and then begin the first of three days at the Stratford Festival. In the afternoon, there is the option to attend a performance of The Music Man, the joyous 1957 Tony Award-winning musical about a scam artist who ends up forming the schoolchildren of a small Iowa town into a marching band (not included in tour price; additional cost applies).

This evening, attend a performance of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, directed by famed Canadian actor-writer-director Robert Lepage (included in tour price). One of Shakespeare’s most forceful examinations of the disjunction between military prowess and political acumen, Lepage presents the tragedy with all the energy and insight for which he has made his name.


Begin your second day at the Stratford Festival with a talk by Jonathan on the day’s performance. Stroll through the elegantly landscaped gardens of central Stratford on a guided tour, visiting the rose arbours and gentle water pools of Elizabeth Garden and the Arthur Meighen Gardens.

After free time for lunch, you may choose to attend a performance of Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband, one of the playwright’s masterpieces of comedy-drama, exploring blackmail, misunderstood love letters and the financing of international canal construction (additional cost applies).

In the evening, attend Brontë: The World Without, a world premiere production commissioned by the Stratford Festival (included in tour price). Written by Jordi Mand and directed by Vanessa Porteous, the play explores the literary talents of Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë even as they live in poverty with their ailing father.


This morning attend a talk by Jonathan before a guided backstage tour of the Festival Theatre, discovering some of the secrets of how the festival’s performances are produced.

Spend some time at leisure for lunch before a matinée performance of To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee’s beloved and enduring tale of moral clarity in an unjust world, capping off our final day at the Stratford Festival. In the evening, enjoy a special farewell dinner with Jonathan and fellow travellers.


Spend a morning and early afternoon at leisure, before a mid-afternoon check out from the hotel and transfer to Toronto Airport.

Tour arrangements conclude on arrival at Toronto airport. Suggested return flights to Australia or New Zealand from 20:00. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your travel arrangements.


Per person, twin-share

AUD 8,750

Single Supplement*

AUD 1,850

Deposit per person (at time of booking)

AUD 1,000

*Single travellers may request to share.
Please advise at time of booking.

Final payment due

09 April 2018

Tour code


Fitness level

Please see booking conditions for fitness level definitions.

Suggested airlines

Air Canada
Please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for current airfares and flight reservations.


In order to visit Canada, all Australian and New Zealand passport holders require an Electronic Travel Authorisation (eTA), completed online in advance of travel.

Tour prices includes

  • Accommodation in centrally located 4 star superior hotels, with breakfast daily (B)
  • Meals as per itinerary (R = Reception, L = Lunch, D = Dinner), including wines
  • A-reserve tickets for performances by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and National Ballet of Canada, and for three plays in the Shaw Festival and three plays in the Stratford Festival
  • Lectures and talks with your tour leader, Jonathan Biggins
  • Comprehensive sightseeing including local guides and entrance fees as per itinerary
  • Transportation throughout on comfortable air-conditioned coaches
  • Hotel/airport transfer on tour departure
  • Gratuities for local guides and drivers
  • Hotel porterage (one piece per person)

Tour prices does not include

  • International airfares (please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
  • Airport/hotel transfer on tour arrival
  • Airport porterage
  • Tickets for optional performances in the Shaw Festival and Stratford Festival (additional cost applies; limited availability of A-reserve tickets)
  • Items of a personal nature, including telephone, laundry, taxis, minibar, room service etc.
  • Travel insurance (a condition of travel; please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)


Your hotels
Toronto – Marriott Downtown Eaton Centre ****+
Niagara-on-the-Lake – Shaw Club Hotel ****
Stratford – Bruce Hotel ****

NB: Hotels of a similar standard may be substituted.