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 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.

The 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 audience.

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 ending.

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.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review of  The Taming Of The Shrew 2020