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Review - The Taming of the Shrew: a novel adaptation

Above: Cameron Gaffney as Vincentio, David Bentley as Gremio, Garry Condoseres as Hortensio. Right: Isaac Barnes as Petruchio, Hannah Martin as Katherina Minola (Kate)

The Taming of the Shrew

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Jason Nash

Presented by Nash Theatre

Merthyr Uniting Church

New Farm

Season runs until June 3. Bookings: or Phone: (07) 3379 4775

Who doesn’t love a good old fashioned Shakespeare production? But when keeping up with the times, his oft quoted lines seem to lose meaning in this day and age. While I firmly believe his works will never go out of style, seeing modern re-tellings of his plays is somewhat refreshing and revives that magical spark that is present in all the Bard’s words.

Nash Theatre’s second production of the year, the comedic Taming of the Shrew, provides an opportunity for that refreshed feeling and delivers a somewhat novel adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s classics that has perhaps lost its relevance in this day and age.

Petruchio’s wooing and subsequent marriage to Katherina can be interpreted as being a tad too violent and sexist. In fact, most of the attitudes towards each woman in this work from the men can be seen as having varying degrees of misogynistic qualities. I understand that the controversy surrounding the validity of this “misogyny” claim is real and that it is debatable, however I had never seen this work before and my interpretation of the text led me to side with the misogyny camp.

Nash does a commendable job with the play. Director Jason Nash isn’t new to the directing scene or the Nash Theatre community and so his experience lends itself to an insightful eye into the world of Shakespeare.

Jason is a director that understood the text well and this, in turn, led to the actors understanding and interpretation. This play is long. Falling just shy of three hours including the interval, it seemed a bit too long at times, but it was made up for by the well-interpreted verse and a cast that extolled their lines with and ease and good energy.

The tragic twist at the end was an interesting surprise as well. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the plot, it involves primarily the Minola family. The head of the Minolas, Baptista, is a woman in this production and so lends, as the director puts it, a more “balanced” ideal to the show.

It also brings it more to the times, which suited the rest of the setting which was in a bar, yet still in Padua. It follows Baptista’s two daughters, Bianca and Katherina. Bianca is what every woman should aspire to be: young, virtuous, beautiful and well-educated. Katherina, on the other hand, is the complete opposite in temperament. Being a veritable fire-cracker, no man would dare marry her, so the story goes.

Two young men arrive in Padua and one, Lucentio, immediately falls in love with Bianca. Baptista has, however, ordered Bianca marry no one before her sister. When Petruchio comes into the picture, things change. Katherina is wed to him and then a complicated plot occurs where, much later in the play, Lucentio manages to marry Bianca, despite her long line of suitors. Katherina changes her ways, through a series of instances where she is refused food and suitable clothing. Her fiery nature is subdued and in the end, it is she that defines the perfect image of a bride. The play ends with all marvelling at her change in demeanour, however, an added twist at the end lends a tragic note that is very much in keeping with the Bard’s style, if somewhat confusing at first.

I quite liked this interpretation. I found the cast well matched to their characters and that the dialogue flowed well, with nary a stumble or fumbled line. Hannah Martin as Katherina really captured the essence of her contentiousness and fit right in to the Biker gang inspired theme. Isaac Barnes as Petruchio was perhaps the most charismatic and best interpreter of the language throughout the entire show.

His acting style was natural, he moved with ease across the stage and the words seemed to fly off his tongue. John Tiplady, a Nash theatre regular, was for me, the cult favourite of the night, nailing his drunken barfly persona and adding quite a bit of humour to the production. So, looking for a night out but unsure what to do? Give Nash Theatre a go.

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