Thursday, June 23, 2016

THE TAMING OF THE SHREW at the Globe Theatre - that sinking feeling...

Shakespeare's reputation has survived 500 years and despite the worst intentions of this production I hope he survives beyond that, but the poor Brummie takes a bit of a kicking with this profoundly irritating version of THE TAMING OF THE SHREW.

The Concept.  That thing that overshadows so many productions these days - it seems to take precedence over everything: clarity, casting, logic, all gets thrown out, just as long as everything is crammed and hacked to fit in the jelly mould of The Concept.  And the one for this production is a jaw-dropper...

The director Caroline Byrne's Concept is to set her TAMING OF THE SHREW in 1916 Dublin to celebrate this year's Easter Rising Centenary.  Constant Reader, I'll just leave that there so you can take it in.

I am sure some will argue it has a merit but I find it toe-curlingly "right on", a banal Dave Spart-style idea that offers no insights at all to the plot.  Byrne of course has the obligatory gender-shift in casting which leads to performances of no particular interest. 

Any casting that pushes an agenda - gender or race - reminds me of that spate of musicals that decided it was a wonderful idea to have the cast also play the musical instruments.  So who did you cast?  The best performer for the role or the one who wasn't particularly good but was a genius at the bassoon?

Again I wouldn't mind if Byrne gave us performances that lived in the memory for the right reasons but here they live in my mind's eye for their clanging amateurism.  The chief villain was a Petruchio whose idea of projection was simply to bellow his lines out at the top of his lungs.  It's comedy was laboured - there seemed to be a fixation with scratching crabs - and time and again I wondered why we were being presented with a Theatre In Education production.

I will grudgingly admit that there were possibilities of interest in Aiofe Duffin's Katherine and Genevieve Hulme-Beaman's Bianca.  Duffin in particular should be praised for stepping into the role at the last minute and she at times gave the impression of being a living person but was defeated by the overbearing Edward MacLiam as Petrouchio.  Genevieve Hulme-Beaman also gave signs of life by showing that Bianca wasn't the simpering innocent her suitors took her for but she too had to make her impression with the look-at-me, look-at-me clowning of her co-stars.

Well that's about it... I don't want to waste any more time on this bad production that so distrusted Shakespeare's text that it drops the last lines of the play to substitute a re-written version of the Irish song "The Parting Glass".  Time and again I wondered - if you want to do a play about the Dublin Easter Rising then write your own, don't bother trying to cram a Shakespeare play into that damned Concept jelly mould.

This is the first production I have seen in Emma Rice's Wonder season which launches her tenure as the Globe's Artistic Director.  Yes it made me wonder... but probably not in the way I was supposed to.  Meanwhile I look forward to future productions this year that could be inspired by this stupid Concept - THE HOMECOMING set on the Somme to mark that Centenary?  BEDROOM FARCE set during China's Cultural Revolution which started 50 years ago?

C'mon directors... don't let stupidity stand in your way...

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