THE TAMING OF THE SHREW

Bard on the Beach

Vanier Park, until September 21st

Photo Credit: Tim Matheson

My Two Pence

The 2019 season of Bard on the Beach kicks off with a Western-themed Taming of the Shrew, telling the story of Katerina Minola being won over by the dowry-seeking Petruchio.  Director Lois Anderson manages to take the typically degrading storyline and flips it into a powerful story of cooperation, empowerment and swashbuckling adventure. This uplifting comedy brings out the laughs as well as the beauty from the rich Shakespeare poetry.

 

Relocating the story from the rolling Venetian hills of Padua to the rolling tumbleweed towns of the Old West, the beautiful wooden walkways and swinging saloon doors silhouette against the setting sun of the open backed stage looking out over the Kitsilano water.  The re-staging was a joy to behold, with such vivid scenes as the starlit campfire accompanied by a softly played harmonica to create a charming and immersive slice of the American frontier.

 

As always, Bard on the Beach brings incredibly strong leads, with Jennifer Lines playing the ‘tamed’ Kate and Andrew McNee as Petruchio.  Together they showed impressive chemistry, reacting to each other’s powerful personalities, creating a magnetic presence on the stage. The shift in this production from a domineering exercise to a mutual collusion was a welcome change.  It was a relief to watch Petruchio stand in solidarity with his new wife, rather than the traditional patriarchal parade in Katerina’s subservience to him. Good job, team.

 

The supporting cast were excellent, showing true mastery over the stage.  Each scene was filled with a constant flurry of motion which seemed simultaneously intentional and organic, credit going to both choreographer and the well-rehearsed performers.  Every member had great physicality, and consistently accented meaning into the often tricky verses, allowing for intent to be seen as well as heard.

 

I particularly enjoyed the thoroughly hilarious Anton Lipovetsky, who plays Hortensio.  His part, normally inconsistent in motivation (see: the Hortensio problem), provided moments of slapstick genius throughout, delivering original asides enhancing the original text and enriching those awkward moments with genuine comedy.

 

This incredibly polished show is creative and imaginative.  Beautifully dressed, marvellously staged, and promising laughs throughout, this light-hearted comedic play provides a great night out.  Whilst the original text’s intent may have not been to completely diminish the desirability of strong women, it is definitely how it is perceived today.  BotB’s production throws out the unnecessary belittling, and provides a triumphant tale of love, cooperation and understanding being able to vanquish the regressive minds of the bullying masses.  I highly recommend this empowering and fun start to this season of Bard!

 

- Irving Bolton