Intelligent and comical analysis of Shakespeare’s classic
By Narelle Wood
Shakespeare fans beware. Gillian English has some issues, 10 in fact, with this supposed Shakespearean classic and isn’t afraid to share them. Loudly. Emphatically. And very convincingly.
Before English deconstructs, or rather demolishes The Taming of the Shrew, she astutely gives the audience a precis of the play, just so everyone’s familiar with the key themes – women are property and using torture is a perfectly permissible method to tame an unwieldy female. It’s obvious from the get-go why English wants this play to burn in the fiery pits of hell. Over the next hour though she continues to educate us on just how f-ed up Shakespeare’s portrayal of the female characters Katerina and Bianca really is, and also questions the heroic status of Petruchio, the gaslighting protagonist with the dumbarsed name. As a side note, there is a lot of language use that would make a “proper” Shakespearean lady blush, so the show is recommended for an audience 15 years of age and over.
I don’t want to list the 10 things that English takes issue with, because that would spoil the show. However, broadly speaking she touches on themes such as men and violence against women, teenagers, Disney, fetishizing youth, film adaptations of Shakespearean classics, violence against women (part of the premise of the show, so worth repeating, because it’s a very important for everyone to hear, not just men) and pockets. As a Shakespeare lover, it’s a little confronting. I found myself wanting to yell, “what about the language Gillian, think about the language!” But I also wanted to bail English up and ask her thoughts on other Shakespeare gems such as Romeo and Juliet and Othello. Confronting yes, but more importantly thought provoking and very topical; I have also since discussed a number of the 10 things with my fellow English teachers who do teach Shakespeare by highlighting many of the problems with it.
10 Things I Hate About the Taming of the Shrew is challenging, educational and full of lots of intelligent reasons as to why we should reconsider whose stories get told and who tells them. It might be easy to dismiss it as an entertaining rant, but it’s not just a rant, it’s an intelligent and comical analysis of Shakespeare, with some self-defence advice thrown in for free.
10 Things I Hate About the Taming of the Shrew is being performed at Belleville, Melbourne until 30 September. Tickets can be purchased online.
Photograph: Dahlia Katz