REVIEW: Taming of the Shrew

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Choosing William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew was a bold and brave choice by our local talented thespians given the current Trump era and the ensuing controversy surrounding the value, or lack of it, shown towards women.

A stirring start to Tauranga’s 2018 theatrical season, the play is set in the 1940s, creating an imaginative opportunity for costuming and set design. Staged outdoors amongst the turn of the century buildings and cobbles of Tauranga Historic Village, it makes for a one-of-a-kind experience.

For myself, it’s never been easy to view Taming of the Shrew as something more than a chauvinistic expression, but I overcame my initial misgivings and decided to enjoy it. And enjoy it I did.

I had forgotten how over the top it is, and with the highly talented actors we have here, it’s a delight to have questions raised once again around equality and the battle of the sexes.

The play is full of sub plots and humorous asides, but to baldly simplify the main story, we have a wealthy father, Baptista, played by Paul Mabey, who is essentially trafficking his daughters to the suitor of his choosing.

And to add to my rising sense of being appalled by this, each suitor focuses on the father’s approval, the looks and behaviour of the woman and how much is in their dowries.

I felt I had to give myself permission to be amused by this, so once I’d done that, I found myself caught up in the laugh out loud moments. Some of my favourite Summer Shakespeare team actors returned to take centre-stage, and it’s a pleasure to see such talented performers fill out their roles.

Lucentio, played by Ryan Wood, pursues Bianca, played by Erika Stols, while Petruchio, played by Dylan Frewin, pursues Katherine, played by Nadine Tibbits. Nadine was a wonderful Antonia in Much Ado About Nothing, while Ryan was outstanding as Claudio in the same play, and Dylan is one of my favourite local actors. It’s Erika’s first full Shakespeare play and she was perfect as Bianca.

Getting back to the storyline, I’ve always felt that Katherine was wrongly described as a ‘shrew’. She’s independent, with her own mind, and Nadine plays her superbly. How she succumbs to Petruchio’s wooing is still a complete mystery to me, but then the pursuit and winning over of the object of one’s love has always been a mystery. Shakespeare was ahead of his time in the writing of his romantic comedies, portraying women as both strong and demure.

As dusk fell, I loved the lighting that came up around the actors and their set. It was an intimate setting, with the players sitting close to the audience at times. The play is seriously funny, with an outstanding cast and crew. In Shakespeare’s time, men often played the parts of women, and I enjoyed that Gin Mabey, the director who also played Gremio, had no qualms about switching it up, placing women in some of the men’s roles.

Just some of the actors and roles behind some unforgettable moments were Jaden McLeod as Vincentio, Hannah Richardson as the tailor, Di Corrie as the widow and Fin Shaw as Hortensio. Appearing from out of side streets and buildings at the village, the whole production made for a truly wonderful experience.

Please go and see Summer Shakespeare – it is addictive and a huge amount of fun!