The Theatreguide.London Review
In March 2020 the covid-19 epidemic
forced the closure of all British theatres. Some companies adapted
by putting archive recordings of past productions online, others
by streaming new shows. Until things return to normal we review
the experience of watching live theatre onscreen.
Taming Of The Shrew
Stratford Festival and YouTube Summer 2020
Popular Shakespeare at its
best, this 2015 production from Stratford Ontario's Festival Theatre
invites that audience in without ever dumbing-down, and respects the text
while celebrating even more the vitality of the theatrical event.
And it's a lot of fun.
Under the guidance of
director Chris Abraham the actors speak with admirable clarity, employ
natural modern speech rhythms (instead of those of verse recitation)
whenever possible, and exploit the opportunities this play offers for
physical humour, comic reactions and the occasional bit of flirting with
The result is sparkling,
lively, entertaining and true to the happy spirit of the play.
As the central couple Deborah
Hay and Ben Carlson are neither of them juveniles, a fact the production
acknowledges by having other actors react comically whenever the text
calls Petruchio young. But, as has happened in some productions of Much
Ado About Nothing, ageing the central couple attractively leavens the
comedy with a 'last chance at happiness' warmth.
Deborah Hay convinces us of a
deep unhappiness Katherine brings to the play and her brave willingness to
risk the chance that this strange lover offers some way out of it. And Ben
Carlson allows Petruchio's bluster to lapse just occasionally enough for
us to sense there's someone more sensitive hiding behind it.
If neither the director nor
the two actors have solved the perhaps impenetrable problem of making the
'taming' plot acceptable to modern sensibilities, they do make both
characters sympathetic and attractive so that we celebrate their happy
The strongest sense you will
have of everyone else in the cast is how much they are all doing, through
immersion in their characters and inventive bits of comic shtick, to serve
the play and keep the energy level unwaveringly high, Tom Rooney's
whirling dervish of a Tranio standing out.
Recorded on the Festival Theatre's long and narrow thrust stage, the polished multi-camera video version directed by Barry Avrich captures the energy and inventiveness of a live performance.
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