The Taming of the Shrew has to be one of the most difficult of Shakespeare’s plays for a modern woman to appreciate. I don’t know about you, but I found it difficult to watch an independent young woman being “tamed” into a Stepford wife.
I went to the cinema to see a version filmed at Stratford, Ontario (Canada’s Shakespeare capitol) and I have to say that they did it extremely well. The drunken tinker at the beginning of the play became a drunken blogger, being belligerent in the audience. The music & humour began immediately and continued throughout the play. I haven’t laughed out loud so many times in a theatre in a long, long time. Plus, during the intermission, there was a “behind the scenes” tour of Stratford—all the prop and costume workshops which I’m sure the regular festival attendee doesn’t regularly get to see. Good stuff!
This is a very physically demanding play. I really admired the energy that Ben Carlson (Petrucchio) and Deborah Hay (Kate) put into the roles. Ms. Hay especially had a lot of roaring, flouncing, and flailing to do and seemed to be having a really good time letting it rip! An interview (also during intermission) reveals that the two are a real-life couple and were able to bring their own chemistry to the performance. Hay acknowledged that becoming the extremely subservient wife was a difficult part to play, but that she felt that Kate & Petrucchio have “an understanding” about how Kate will behave when they have an audience. And she plays the “tamed Kate” role with an undertone of the possibility of the volcanic eruption of “shrewishness.”
Much of the humour came from the inflections and tone of voice of the actors, giving the archaic phrases modern meaning—and a few reworked bits of dialog that made the play more accessible for modern people. I think that Shakespeare himself would thoroughly approve of pleasing the audience and I found the changes to work well.
Although this will never be my favourite play, it was extremely well performed and a lot of fun.