Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Feminine Touch to Shakespeare's Shrew

Shakespeare's Globe's all-female cast performing The Taming of the Shew
I just came back from watching the first of five shows of Shakespeare's Globe performing The Taming of the Shrew at the Lyric Theatre at The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts.

In Shakespeare's day, all the women's parts were performed by men. But in this version, they were all female actors, which in the beginning threw my friend and I into a loop.

However it all fits in the theme of disguise and trying to figure out the real from the fake, though adding another layer to it with women playing men.

Here too the actors sing and play musical instruments, from the guitar to the trombone, accordion and saxophone to break up scenes or add a bit of levity.
Katherina and her husband Petruchio on their wedding day

I have to admit it was fun watching women portray men -- Petruchio, who demands the petulant Katherina be his wife, is very aggressive and struts with an egotistic air, while the servant Tranio pretends to be his master Lucentio and is puckish and hip, a guy who boasts much more than he could deliver.

The humour was shown by both physical actions and how they interpreted the lines, making it fun and fresh. However we have to say it was strange seeing two women kiss on stage -- even though they were playing a man and a woman...

I last studied the play in high school and so I had forgotten how Petruchio "tames" Katherina in such a demeaning way. Not only does he prevent her from eating and sleeping, but from cleaning after having fallen off her horse in the mud. He demands that she follow what he says, that if he sees the sun, it is the sun even if it is not -- and if he changes his mind, she is to accept that.

As a woman it was hard to watch, particularly at the end when Katherina instructs her sister and Hortensio's wife how the woman should be subservient and obey her master because he is the one who looks after her... one has to wonder if this is still relevant today?

Katherina is covered in mud after falling off her horse
Her speech ends the play on a serious note, but then as the saxophonist, the woman playing Katherina comes out again on stage on her own playing the instrument to a lively song that the others later come out and perform. It was a strange ending, though one could see the director wanting to end the show on a high note so to speak.

Nevertheless, all the actors were very strong in their roles, not missing a beat and bringing laughs from physical comedy to verbal puns. The fact that they had to sing and play musical instruments demonstrated how demanding their roles were, though the latter was not their forte.

A fun (though long evening) that started at 7.30pm and ended after 10pm.

The Taming of the Shrew
Shakespeare's Globe
September 25-29
Lyric Theatre
The Hong Kong Academy for the Performing Arts

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