The Taming of the Shrew

The Taming of the Shrew
By William Shakespeare. Butterfly Theatre – Shakespeare at the Pub. The Wheatsheaf Hotel (SA). January 9 – 17, 2018

Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew is today regarded by some as a ‘problem play’. This is primarily due to the influence of contemporary ‘feminism’ concerning the overt misogyny in the play. The play has been re-interpreted in numerous ways, and even though it may not be performed as often as in previous times, nonetheless, it still has the ability to enthrall and entertain. This is very apparent with Butterfly Theatre’s current delightful production. Adding to the production’s enjoyment, it is set within the informal ‘beer garden’ of the The Wheatsheaf Hotel, Thebarton, Adelaide.

This joyous production has been adapted and directed by Megan Dansie and produced by Bronwyn Ruciak. There is a suggestion via costumes that the play is set in the 1950s. This successfully assists in placing the drama in a social world in which getting married is of vital importance. It is, however, the sheer clarity of the text that makes this production so much fun.

This is a production that is raw and unadorned and not weighed down by modern feminism. Furthermore, Petruchio and Kate are wonderfully played by mature actors, Gary George and Georgia Stockham. This greatly assists in giving the production a gravitas, with more adult humour rather than screaming youthful passion.

The playfulness and wit of Petruchio and Kate is radiant and very funny. Knowing the play well and having seen numerous productions, I always watch for the moment in which Kate and Petruchio fall in love with one another. In this production it happens early – in their first meeting, during the ‘tongue’ and ‘tail’ exchange – and it works wonderfully.

Another highlight is the scene when Kate and Petruchio are on the road returning to Padua with the exchange about the ‘sun’ and ‘moon’ and the old man. Georgia Stockham is simply delightful in this scene, conquering Gary George’s quixotic and temperamental Petruchio. In this scene, it is as if they have changed identity and that Petruchio is now the real ‘shrew’.

I also enjoyed the scene in which Kate and Petruchio silently watch the revelation of the Bianca-Lucentio sub-plot. They weren’t really silent – I was sitting right next to them and their giggling was infectious. Then there was the scene in which Petruchio demands a kiss in the street. He gets his kiss – and it is a full-on pash that was sexy as well as romantic.

Finally, we have Kate’s climatic speech at the end of the play in which she wins a wager for Petruchio involving a wife’s obedience. In the modern world, this speech is now considered very problematic. Again, Georgia Stockham is terrific; the maturity of her Kate comes to the fore with the notion of ‘for God’s sake, girls, get over it – give him what he wants and you will be the winner.’ And she is – pocketing the money, asserting her triumph in being the one who actually won the wager, and then dragging the enchanted Petruchio off the stage by the tie around his neck as if he were a dog – hilarious.

Congratulations to all for such a joyous and fun night in the theatre with one of Shakespeare’s most charming and yet now ‘problematic’ plays. This production conquered all the so-called ‘problems’ and is well worth the price of admission.

Furthermore, it is an excellent introduction for those who are unfamiliar with the play, together with the joys of going to the theatre. As many Adelaidians are aware, some of the best theatre experiences can be in informal venues, such as The Wheatsheaf Hotel, as well as the more formal theatre spaces.

Tony Knight

To keep up with the latest news and reviews at Stage Whispers, click here to like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.