The Taming of the Shrew
By William Shakespeare
With Kirsten Rasmussen (Kate) and Alex McCooeye (Petruchio)
Theater in the Park Series
And so the shrew would be tamed
To do so, Petruchio would starve her, among other successful tactics. Then she would come to see that he had her best interest at heart and give him her love. Petruchio will have won his wager and a sizeable dowry and Katharina’s lovely sister Bianca will also become the subject of a financial deal arranged between a smart suitor and the father of both brides, who will only later learn of their respective fates. Ah, History.
During her soliloquy (excerpt below), Katharina speaks of learning to love and obey husband Petruchio who toils in the cold and desolate world while she sleeps comfortably in her domain, and acknowledges that it is indeed a meagre reward to give but her best attentions.
Crouching, she outstretches her hand, to go underfoot said lord and husband. But rather than place his foot upon it as expected (or as written), the noble Petruchio bends toward her, helps her up, and takes her hand to kiss it softly.
No matter that this may be a contemporary adaptation of the ancient, patriarchal ways of the Shakespearian era, it is a relevant story still today, is it not? Indeed, what unruly wench would resist being “tamed” by a worthy and noble lord? Sigh… Although some might rather be loved into submission than depraved into it… But then, who’s to say what love is supposed to look like. If it takes you where you need to go…
The Taming of The Shrew was produced and played by Repercussion Theatre over a period of several weeks this summer in this Shakespeare-in-the-Park tour, which ended August 5th in a park in Ville Saint-Laurent. With actors mostly from the National Theatre School, mostly Anglophone, Repercussion has been producing Shakespearean plays for 25 years now. I was impressed with their talent, excellent timing and smart stage direction, as well as the ethnic diversity in the casting (Chinese and Indian stage actors who are not playing Chinese or Indian characters, are rather rare).
I was particularly pleased to discover actor Alex McCooeye as Petruchio, who wrapped the shrew — and indeed the whole audience — around his little finger as he delivered his character with so much humour and style then traipsed onstage with bare legs in a loony costume designed to destabilize the stodginess of the wedding scene.
Bravo also for the careful, non-confrontational management of the park dwelling drunken vagrants whose curiosity brought them right up to the stage where some attempted to start conversations with the actors….! Oh the disruption! When you consider the reams and reams of lines learned in this 2 1/2 hour production…
Excerpt from the script:
A woman moved is like a fountain troubled,
Muddy, ill-seeming, thick, bereft of beauty;
And while it is so, none so dry or thirsty
Will deign to sip or touch one drop of it.
Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper,
Thy head, thy sovereign; one that cares for thee,
And for thy maintenance commits his body
To painful labour both by sea and land,
To watch the night in storms, the day in cold,
Whilst thou liest warm at home, secure and safe;
And craves no other tribute at thy hands
But love, fair looks and true obedience;
Too little payment for so great a debt.
Such duty as the subject owes the prince
Even such a woman oweth to her husband;
And when she is froward, peevish, sullen, sour,
And not obedient to his honest will,
What is she but a foul contending rebel
And graceless traitor to her loving lord?
I am ashamed that women are so simple
To offer war where they should kneel for peace;
Or seek for rule, supremacy and sway,
When they are bound to serve, love and obey.
Why are our bodies soft and weak and smooth,
Unapt to toil and trouble in the world,
But that our soft conditions and our hearts
Should well agree with our external parts?
Come, come, you froward and unable worms!
My mind hath been as big as one of yours,
My heart as great, my reason haply more,
To bandy word for word and frown for frown;
But now I see our lances are but straws,
Our strength as weak, our weakness past compare,
That seeming to be most which we indeed least are.
Then vail your stomachs, for it is no boot,
And place your hands below your husband’s foot:
In token of which duty, if he please,
My hand is ready; may it do him ease.
Why, there’s a wench! Come on, and kiss me, Kate.
p.s. It would seem that whoever led the disruptive park dwellers away from the stage was in fact a concerned citizen in the audience, and not, as I had assumed, a member of the production team. Enough to reinstate trust in human nature indeed, as pointed out in this astute blog review of the same presentation. Related Blog