Friday, May 20, 2016
The Taming of the Shrew...
And I left the place in a raging fury.
This production of one of my favourite plays cleverly had a comedic Irish twist which worked rather well. All the characters had Irish accents and there was Irish dancing. The show also subverted many of the norms of acting in Shakespeare's day by having some of the servants played by women. But, as is the Shakespearean comedic way, these 'servants' were generally all pretending to be the 'masters' so this was quite a clever device to get women into the leading roles.
That said, the production had one major flaw. So abject and serious was this flaw that it completely ruined the evening for me. So glaring, so objectionable was this mistake that I left the theatre very angry. I was completely incensed that they had turned a comedy that at its best is a battle of the sexes played out through a battle of wills into The Utter Humiliating Abuse of the Shrew. Yes, the story contains a sexist 'hero'. But to not explore this sexism and simply present it as entertainment is as complicit in the abuse as it is deeply offensive.
In the play said hero Petruchio attempts to "tame" his feisty shrew of a wife Kate in a variety of ways. He yells at the servants and prevents her from eating by insisting that the dishes are not good enough for her. He loves her 'too much' for her to eat substandard food. He then offers Kate presents of dresses and jewellery, only to return them saying that they too weren't good enough for her. He kills her with kindness. And this is very funny. Or it should be because Kate fights back against these absurdities. She doesn't just take it lying down. Only here it isn't funny at all, because she doesn't fight back. In this production they present Petruchio as simply being a cruel abusive bully and Kate a passive victim. It's a complete misstep and very uncomfortable to watch. It's a battle of the sexes where only one side is fighting and the other gets starved, stripped and molested as the audience watched in stony silence. To neuter Kate like this is to misrepresent one of Shakespeare's strongest women. Even though in this particular battle of sexes the man 'wins' to give Kate no fight back, to strip her of all her pride this production turns one of Shakespeare’s funniest comedies into an utter tragedy. And it was awful to watch.
Don't go. The funny bits are completely over-shadowed by the complicit sexism.