The Tam­ing Of The Shrew


THE TAM­ING OF THE SHREW by Wil­liam Shake­speare (Drift­wood). At var­i­ous venues. Runs to Au­gust 14. Pwyc ($20 sug­gested). drift­woodthe­ See listings, page 50. Rat­ing: NNN

Harken­ing back to the trav­el­ling troupes of the early mod­ern pe­riod, Drift­wood Theatre’s an­nual sum­mer Bard’s Bus Tour per­forms the noble feat of bring­ing out­door Shake­speare to com­mu­ni­ties around On­tario that might not oth­er­wise have ac­cess to pro­fes­sional theatre. This year they’re of­fer­ing a risqué BDSM take on The Tam­ing Of The Shrew (50 Shades Of Shrew?) that’s set in Toronto’s queer com­mu­nity at the end of the 1980s.

Due to the misog­y­nis­tic pol­i­tics at the heart of the orig­i­nal text, in which Petru­chio breaks down Kathe­rina’s re­sis­tance to his amorous ad­vances, Shrew has proved a dif­fi­cult show for con­tem­po­rary direc­tors and au­di­ences (al­though Ted Witzel man­aged a great adap­ta­tion in High Park back in 2013).

Di­rec­tor D. Jeremy Smith re­casts the com­pet­i­tive ap­proach to love and sex within a wider dis­cus­sion of con­sent, dom­i­na­tion and rape cul­ture that’s been brought to the fore by ac­cu­sa­tions against Jian Ghome­shi and Bill Cosby. For the most part, it works.

The Toronto-cen­tric up­date finds the bulk of the ac­tion tak­ing place around Church and Welles­ley the week­end of the Pride parade, with places like Hamil­ton and New­mar­ket earn­ing re­peated chuck­les as stand-ins for the play’s provin­cial lo­cales.

The ro­man­tic ma­noeu­vring is pep­pered with re­cur­ring songs, a ven­er­a­ble jukebox of the­mat­i­cally rel­e­vant 80s pop hits (ev­ery­thing from Prince’s 1999 to Depeche Mode’s Mas­ter And Ser­vant) sung a cap­pella by the cast and nicely rem­i­nis­cent of lo­cal 80s he­roes the Ny­lons. An­other cool retro touch is the mod­u­lar set pieces pro­duced by re­ar­rang­ing colour­ful gi­ant Tetris blocks.

The en­sem­ble is strong, with Ge­of­frey Ar­mour’s Petru­chio stand­ing out, es­pe­cially when he ini­tially tan­gles with Siob­han Richard­son’s Kate. The dy­namic be­tween the two is ex­plo­sive, and at first it’s hard to imag­ine that any “tam­ing” could pos­si­bly take place. Fiona Sauder also de­serves a nod for her turn as the gen­der-fluid Lu­cen­tio in the play’s iden­tity-swap sub­plot.

At two hours and 45 min­utes, the show feels a lit­tle long, and there are cer­tainly scenes that could be cut or trimmed. That said, the pro­duc­tion is pol­ished, in­trigu­ing and en­ter­tain­ing, even if some of the flashy el­e­ments don’t feel to­tally in­te­grated.

Ge­of­frey Ar­mour (left) and Drew O’Hara add BDSM to the Bard.

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