the taming of the shrew: elizabethan, western 21st century interpretations

I’m about as confused on this one as ever. Bard on the Beach presents Taming of the Shrew, but in a mish-mash of genres that don’t seem to fit very well together. Flamboyant suede chaps, Mexicans incognito, and deliberately awkward staging to reflect the current apathetical comedic modes… not to mention Katharina’s (Colleen Wheeler) breaking of the will, which essentailly violates every aspect of the great feminist movement.  

While Petruchio (Bob Frazer) translates well into his macho, Marlboro man persona, series host Christopher Gaze’s british accent doesn’t bode well for someone trying to come off as a Mexican. Don’t get me wrong, as far as the theme of fiesty women and power and oppression reign, this play was in its right, but would have Shakespeare turning in his grave – to be honest I was actually thinking about how similar The Shrew is to that angsty late-90’s flick “10 Things I Hate About You.” Director James Fagan Tait begs “Kiss me, Kate!” But this isn’t what I learned in my Shakespeare class…. The ending was a familiar philosophical tangent reflecting on the power of the will, but the soft weaknesses of the body; a quintessential, Shakespearean mindfuck paradox. 

Katharina throws away the entire reputation of women in a single swooping motion, to chuck off a hair decoration that her husband disproves of, but only says so in pursuit to win a bet. I wasn’t feeling the love tonight.

If you don’t like Shakespeare that much, or don’t understand him, GO SEE THIS PLAY. Mostly slapstick, anti-feminine sovereignty gags that don’t require the use of too many braincells… yeah.

bard round two: romeo and juliet

After my last visit to the Bard, I was desperately hoping for Dean Paul Gibson’s production of Romeo and Juliet to compensate for my earlier disappointments. Luckily, the performance tonight has redeemed the Festival after the last Western-styled desecration of Shakespeare, and had fucking style. With Kyle Rideout playing a love-struck, mascara-eyed, melancholy emo Romeo, I felt like I was in one of those engrossing GAP commercials. Tight black pants and collared white shirts, perfectly synchronised uniformity – the Apothecary’s sole grey shirt attracts both metaphoric and literal neutrality. Could this get any sweeter? There’s a naked ass in this play, restoring the Vancouverite liberalism we all thought was lost.

katrina dunn presents julius caesar

My third venture to this year’s Bard on the Beach at Vanier Park was a much different experience from the last two. Not to slag off the creative and innovative world of directorial interpretation, but The Shrew’s Western reality still captures that awful taste in my mouth. In other words, Julius Caesar is minimalist, Roman attitude with no modern interpretive angles – Caesar (Allan Morgan) is old, and raging (just the way he’s supposed to be). Fuck, I thought his ghostly white hallucinating stare was going to make my eyes bleed. So bitingly cold… 

The best part is Dunn’s slight Elizabethan, Renaissance undertones – making the story of betrayal and political injustice imparted as a shared value between the Elizabethans and the classical era of the Roman Republic. In fact, this bears more significance as Brutus (Scott Bellis) spirals into despair and self-perpetuated guilt over his betrayal, which is a classical tenet of Shakespeare’s tragic heroes. Ultimately, Brutus’ hamartia of excessive ambition has a more lasting effect, that paradox of something being so good that it eventually defeats itself and turns to damage that otherwise perfect world. Some may call it shit disturbing, but this kind of stuff is really what makes Shakespeare worth reading or seeing in the flesh. It’s that delicate boundary where potency becomes decadent, and then unstable to implosive. I ate muffins in the audience and soaked this all in while Brutus suffered in soliloquial turmoil.

Overall, this play was the most impressive thus far, despite the fact that nearly three-quarters of the cast was made up of balding men, their cul-de-sacs more distinct against the shinyness of the skin underneath. Although there was much baldness tonight, the perfomances were grade A (I particularly marvelled at Gerry Mackay, who played the revolutionary zealot Cassius all too well), and had the intimacy which only the studio stage can capture. 

Maybe this is really fucking petty but I can’t help but add that Craig Erickson (who played Marc Antony) did not look anything like his headshots from the programme. I felt like I’d been duped. Someone should tell him that it’s not honest to deceive others with uncharacteristically good photographs of himself.