Andrew McNee & Jennifer Lines, The Taming of the Shrew (2019) Photo & Image Design: Emily Cooper
Taming of the Shrew
Opens Bard on the Beach 30th Anniversary Season
My Review of Taming of the Shrew
It’s 1594 and out of nowhere Marty McFly appears in the DeLorean time machine to whisk William Shakespeare away to 1870 where they almost run over the Man With No Name. And after several hours in the groggery where the two were seen painting their noses, a revamped version of the spaghetti western of the Taming of the Shrew under the creative vision of Lois Anderson of Bard on the Beach is born, or so it seems to my very vivid, albeit sometimes somewhat absurd, imagination. I have to admit that although I did attend the original Spaghetti Western of The Taming of the Shrew by Bard on the Beach in 2007 starring Colleen Wheeler, well hell’s bells, it would have been a miracle if those brain cells with the memory of that experience hadn’t been oblierated after decades of wine tasting, so for me it was like experiencing the Spaghetti Western adaption for the first time.
Set in Padua, Italy which is the home to many a campfire tale of outlaws (said no one ever), this tale is complete with tobacco spitting Raisin’ Cain cowpokes and rag proper damsels and even a frontier ballad or two. It’s a hog killing time as the cast, all of whom are seasoned veterans of Shakespearean lingo and perform in all the Bard on the Beach productions during the same week all season, mesmerize us with their outstanding performances. The verbal and physical game of ping pong played by Kate and Petruchio which starts out in a ferocious splay of ricocheting barbs of insults and gradually over the course of the play, trickles into a stream of playful banter and steamy kisses is not your usual tale of boy meets girl, but rather a tale of how the boy breaks girl not into the ultimate submission but as an equal partner in future adventures of the Wild frontier.
Although I dare say that my favorite character is the “I’m rough and I don’t woo like a baby” Petruchio played by Andrew McNee who immerses himself in the oxymoronic role of doting husband and callous cad so convincingly that I’m sure he has a doctor’s prescription to Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’s potion. And I would be remiss if I did not mention Jennifer Lines‘ convincing performance as Kate the Shrew who couldn’t pitch a tent as well as she pitched a fit here, there and every where and whose shrilling voice had each one of us in the audience cringing in fear. Her role as the unruly Kate is the complete opposite of the role of she plays as the regal Queen Elizabeth in Shakespeare in Love, which demonstrates her versatility to perform such contrasting personas in plays which are being featured in the same week.
Another performer of noteworthy mention is Kate Besworth who plays the role of beautiful “look at me I’m a fashion queen” Bianca in The Taming of the Shrew – Mara Gottler, Costume Designer does a stupendous job in dazzling us with all of Bianca’s outfits. Would you believe that in Bard on the Beach’s Shakespeare in Love she plays the role of John Webster, a young boy with homicidal tendencies and a great singing voice? Her performance in The Taming of the Shrew as Bianca with her coquettish behavior encapsulates the subtle manipulation women had to employ in those chauvinistic times to get what they really wanted, making her a playful contrast to Kate who refuses to check in her balls at the OK Corral.
This Western Spaghetti adaptation directed by Lois Anderson adds a layer of whimsical playfulness with the rough and tumble horseplay and the occasional splay of bullets and lets us that the hearts of the wild women of the Wild West can be won not through brute force but with gentle coercion.
About Taming of the Shrew
Featuring Jennifer Lines as Kate and Andrew McNee as Petruchio, this season’s production is inspired by Bard’s beloved 2007 Wild West production of the play, directed by Miles Potter. The 2019 production is directed by Lois Anderson (Lysistrata, 2018; Pericles, 2016).
“Kate is our protagonist,” enthuses Anderson. “This entire play is about her journey towards identity, selfhood and finding out how she can define her life. I think it’s very important right now to tell a story of rebellion with a female protagonist. The villain in this piece is not Petruchio—he is her ally. Kate’s conflict is with a society that holds her to a certain expectation: that she will become a goodly wife and pass on a huge dowry to a man.”
For this sometimes-controversial play, Anderson has revamped the script so that some of Petruchio’s lines are spoken by Kate—a move Anderson believes honours Shakespeare’s original vision for his characters.
“When the playbill went up for The Taming of the Shrew in Elizabethan times, everyone would have thought they were going to see the comical tale of a marriage in the vein of ‘Punch and Judy’ – but Shakespeare challenged that old trope by staging a profound love story between a husband and wife,” adds Anderson. “He tells a story of two kindred spirits; two soul mates who are equally matched: mentally and physically. There is no taming in this story. We’re just watching two people encounter each other, trying to comprehend each other, while they are falling in love.”
Joining the cast alongside Lines and McNee are Ghazal Azarbad, Scott Bellis, Kate Besworth, Andrew Cownden, Victor Dolhai, Austin Eckert, Charlie Gallant, Ming Hudson, Anton Lipovetsky, Susinn McFarlen, Paul Moniz de Sá, Chirag Naik, Kamyar Pazandeh, Jason Sakaki and Joel Wirkkunen.
Set Designer Cory Sincennes contrasts a ‘civilized’ town with the wide-open wilderness in his Wild West set, complemented by Costume Designer Mara Gottler’s designs, which showcase the sense of personal reinvention that permeated American society after the Civil War. Sound Designer Malcolm Dow creates a spaghetti western-inspired soundscape, using Mark Desormeaux’ original 2007 compositions. Additional members of the production team include Jonathan Hawley Purvis (Fight Director and Choreographer), Gerald King (Lighting Designer), Tai Amy Grauman (Directing Apprentice), Kimira Bhikum (Assistant Set Designer), Celeste English (Assistant Lighting Designer), Alaia Hamer (Assistant Costume Designer) and Alison Matthews (Head Voice & Text Coach). The Stage Management team includes Stephen Courtenay (Production Stage Manager), Rebecca Mulvihill (Assistant Stage Manager) and Heather Barr (Apprentice Stage Manager).
Dates of note for The Taming of the Shrew include:
The Taming of the Shrew – June 5 to September 21 – Opening Night June 16
Exploring Shakespeare – July 6 at 11am, presented by Simon Fraser University’s Paul Budra
Forum: Kate – Victim or Victor? – August 26 at 7:30pm (Howard Family Stage)
Bard-B-Q & Fireworks –July 31 & August 3: play performance plus dinner and entertainment
Family Days – July 6, August 10 & August 24 at 2pm; activities plus Mainstage play performances
Talkback Tuesdays – Starting July 2 through to August 27, join members of the cast for lively Q & A sessions after each Tuesday evening performance
Wine Wednesdays – July 10, August 7, August 21 & September 4 at 6pm (pre-show events)
Accessible Performances – VocalEye – July 21 & August 10; Relaxed Performance – Sept 8
Ticket prices include all fees & taxes and start at $26 for all regular play performances. Youth Price tickets, sponsored by Global BC, are available for patrons ages 6 to 22, at 50% off regular adult prices. Prices for special events, group bookings and multi-play ticket packages can be foundonline at bardonthebeach.org or by calling the Bard Box Office at . Early booking is recommended for best seat selection (all seats are reserved) and because many performances sell out in advance.
Bard on the Beach gratefully acknowledges the corporate sponsors who support and sustain the Festival and its programs. 2019 sponsors include Season Sponsor Goldcorp; Production Sponsors Avison Young, Lawson Lundell, BlueShore Financial and Lonetree Cider; Season Media Sponsors The Vancouver Sun and Global BC, as well as many other valued sponsors and partners. Bard also thanks the City of Vancouver Cultural Services Department, the Vancouver Park Board, the Province of British Columbia, the BC Arts Council, and the Canada Council for the Arts for their continuing support.
About Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival
Bard on the Beach is one of Canada’s largest not-for-profit, professional Shakespeare festivals. Established in 1990, the annual summer festival’s mission is to perform, explore and celebrate the genius of William Shakespeare, surrounded by the natural beauty of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Bard also offers year-round education and training programs for youth, adults and theatre professionals in its administrative home at the BMO Theatre Centre in Olympic Village as well as in schools and community facilities throughout the Lower Mainland of British Columbia.