This past week, the utter gems at The Royal Shakespeare Company gifted me (YEP I KNOW I WAS FREAKING OUT TOO) 2 tickets to the live cinema broadcast of their production of The Taming Of The Shrew, so let’s get into the review…
I had recently read the Taming Of The Shrew, so I was excited to see it live. It’s one that I’d never seen before so I was very excited to see how it had been interpreted. When I learnt the genders had been flipped I was SO EXCITED because I love it when that happens. I love how it changes the world the plays take place in, the meaning, the relationships, the everything and this case was no exception. As with all live broadcasts, we were treated to an interview with the director. I’m not going to lie, I was pretty surprised to learn it was a man but Justin Audibert backed up his creative choices with finesse and flair. He was interested in seeing how flipping from a patriarchy to a matriarchy was equally problematic and yet an interesting exploration of female power. I knew from this, that we were in for a treat.
The play started out as being quite funny. All the ladies fawning over the men in a relatable and hilarious way. It was almost us if the women had become a gaggle of what I would refer to as “lads” making sexist and vulgar remarks about the people they want to be with. It was annoying but on the whole, harmless. Nothing to suggest the matriarchy was anything other than what it exactly should be. Onward come the usual Shakespeare tropes of swapping identities and I mostly found myself laughing at the utterly ridiculous, almost pantomime performances from the ladies. Particularly Amanda Harris As Baptista and Laura Elsworthy as Trania!
These pictures illustrate just how amazing the hair and makeup was in this production, one of my fav elements of an original time styled production. What struck me was how feminine the men were. That even in a matriarchy it was the long hair, swaying hips, and flrity smiles that were still the most attractive. This was excellently portrayed by James Cooney as Bianco, who, was by far my favourite actor to watch. He was just SO funny.
Along came Petruchia (Claire Price) along with a darker and more sinister tone, particularly in the second half. I know this is supposed to be a comedy, and in Shakespeare’s time I’m sure it was. But it is SO sexist and SO misogynistic and downright abusive that I’m not sure I could stomach it if the genders weren’t flipped. (How hypocritical of me). Claire Price does a cracking job at making it seem normal, despite being completely horrifying, Joseph Arkley as Katherine, The Shrew goes form being a sassy rebel who can’t be tamed to a helpless wreck. It’s quite haunting to see.
The difference between these scenes and the scenes with Bianco are startling, so much so that during the second half, you forget you’re supposed to be watching a comedy. It flips everything on your head as an audience member. It shows that no matter your gender or sex, power is not a good thing and the end result will always be truly awful. The acting is impeccable and a joy to watch, even if the action and dialogue is nothing short of awful.
I for one was quite relieved when the end resolution came, when the comedic plot of Trania’s true identity became clear and the true extent of Petruchia’s love for Kate became clear. My favourite moment of the entire production was Kate’s final speech, with it being changed to “I’m ashamed men are so simple”. The whole audience nodded knowingly (even the men) and I was struck how in a play where there is a matriarchy, men, still, have the ultimate control as it becomes all about them in a way where it wouldn’t have been if the play was its original patriarchy. My brain HURT and me and my friend had such a great discussion after. I was particularly excited to see an actor in a wheelchair and a deaf actor in the production, onward and upward with the inclusion! Bravo, RSC.
The Taming of the Shrew plays at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon until 31st August.
It then plays at the Barbican, London, from 5th November – 18th January, as well as being on a national tour. Details can be found here.
All photographs from http://www.rsc.org.uk
This was a great production that will become the version that all interprations of TTOTS will be compared to.
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Thank you lovelies and happy reading! ox