The Taming of the Shrew isn’t a piece of Shakespeare I rush out to see at every opportunity, but with Peter Hinton directing, I couldn’t resist. His Swanne Trilogy, Into the Woods, and Fanny Kemble established him for me as a director worth watching. He is currently the artistic director of the National Arts Centre English Theatre in Ottawa.
For this production of Shrew, Hinton has retained the Induction, a framing device that makes the main story of Kate and Petruchio a play-within-a-play. This device is jetisoned in some performances, but here it is not only retained but modified in a way that changes the character balance in what will follow.
Christopher Sly, a drunkard, staggers about a tavern and falls asleep on the floor. In the original, a visiting nobleman decides to play a trick by dressing up Sly as a Lord and, once he awakes, feigning that he has lost his memory. The tavern inmates, a group of actors and the real nobleman’s party will put on a play for his entertainment, and this inner play is The Taming of the Shrew.
In Hinton’s version, the nobleman is none other than Queen Elizabeth who is out on the town (echoes here of Elizabeth Rex, not to mention A Midsummer Night’s Dream). When Sly awakes, he is attended by his long-lost “wife”, actually the Queen’s page Bartholemew.
In a nice touch for the regulars, the bell traditionally announcing the start of Stratford performances does not ring until the inner play begins. Continue reading