TAMING OF THE SHREW – REVIEW OF STREAMING OF 1988 STRATFORD FESTIVAL PRODUCTION
Reviewed by James Karas
Festival of Canada has a fine library of filmed productions that are available
in various forms. Some have been seen in cinemas, many on television and are
available now free, on demand, on DVD or Blu-ray.
The Festival has
made numerous production available for home viewing during the pandemic crisis.
The 2020 season was cancelled and for many of us it was nothing short of a
disaster. What is available for watching at home goes some ways in assuaging
There are a
dozen major productions available on demand ranging from King Lear
with Colm Feore,The Tempestwith Martha henry, Timon of
Athens with Joseph Ziegler, Coriolanuswith Michael
Blake,Macbeth with Ian Lake and others.
There are also
some gems from older productions, and I watched the 1988 production of The
Taming of the Shrew. I saw it 32 years ago and remembered it somewhat
but unfortunately most of the details have been taken away by Lethe.
One of the interesting
things about watching a performance that was filmed so many years ago was seeing
so many familiar performers in their youth or remembering some that have died.
Ricard Monette directed a top-notch cast, and the result was and remains a
brilliant, imaginative, and simply hilarious rendering of the problematic play.
Monette sets the
play in Italy in the 1950’s. There is liberal and comic use of Italian,
Petruchio rides a Vespa, and some actors have “Italian” accents.
Monette finds or
invents humour continually and many times unexpectedly. He makes short shrift
of the Induction with the drunken Christopher Sly (Colm Feore) but what he keeps
is funny. For example, the drunk Sly tries to light a cigarette but he cannot
see the lighter properly, so he puts his hand over one eye and manages to light
Colm Feore as
Petruchio is agile, blissfully honest about his mercenary attraction to the
curst Kate and somehow manages to reduce his apparent cruelty. Goldie Semple as
Kate is no doubt abused but she never shows anger or suffering. When Petruchio
tells her the sun is the moon and vice versa, she looks at him and smiles the
way one would at an idiot making outrageous remarks. She knows him and seems
certain that she will triumph.
When Kate goes
after her sister Bianca (Kim Horsman) the scene becomes a gale of laughter. She
whacks Bianca with a pillow and then takes her teddy bear, dismembers it limb
by limb and tosses the pieces to her screaming sister. Hilarious.
(Henry Czerny) and his servant Tranio (Scott Wentworth) start undressing on
stage so they can exchange their identities, as they lower their pants, two
nuns come walking across the stage and it is simply funny.
all the characters with humour including the prissy Gremio (Brian Tree) and the
scholarly Hortensio (Geraint Wyn Davies)
Monette does not
and cannot solve the central problem of the play which is the mistreatment and
bullying of a woman into submission. But he covers it up by making Kate an
intelligent woman who knows how to put up with her husband’s idiocies. Monette
shows us that Kate is attracted to Petruchio after their forced kiss and that
is emphasized even during the “Fie, fie” speech of submission at the end. Here
Semple emphasizes the word love and she intones the word obey in a way as to
produce laughter. Petruchio also shows love and the final kiss ends the play on
a positive note.
The production was produced and directed
for CBC television by Norman Campbell. The video is not quite to HD standards,
but it is an intelligently made film of an outstanding production _________________ The Taming of
the Shrewby William
Shakespeare is available from the Stratford Shakespeare Festival here:https://www.stratfordfestival.ca/AtHome