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Summer Shakespeare 2006: The Taming of the Shrew

Emma Bassett



The Taming of the Shrew is the latest in the series of ‘Summer Shakespeare’ run by the Victoria University Theatre Department and The VUWSA Drama Club. This year it was held outside Te Papa in the amphitheatre for the first time, a fantastic venue which added to the atmosphere of the play. The actors used this space to their advantage and the acoustics contributed to the upbeat and lively atmosphere. This adaptation is set in Wellington at the height of a gold rush and as a result there are many entertaining references to various New Zealand towns and iconic Wellington landmarks.
For those of you unfamiliar with The Taming of the Shrew, the basic story goes like this: Baptista Minola has two daughters; the short-tempered and shrewish Kate and her younger, more gorgeous and charming sister Bianca. Bianca has many men pursuing her but her father will not allow anyone to court her until her older sister Kate is married off. Amidst chaos and laughter a plot is devised to find someone to marry Kate so they can have their chance with Bianca. A man arrives in Wellington with the intention of marrying a rich woman and agrees to marry Kate. Kate begins to show her true colours and as a result her potential husband arrives at the wedding drunk and on a broken horse. Long story short: Kate turns into a loyal and devoted wife to her new husband, Bianca gets married, mysteries of mistaken identities are uncovered and, like all of Shakespeare’s comedies, everyone lives happily ever after.
This was an excellent adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew and all actors involved made it their own; working together brilliantly with absolutely spot on comic timing. Anna Kennedy had the lead role of Kate and had people laughing all the way through with her perfectly timed eye movements and facials. She was the complete embodiment of Kate; the sly, short tempered and tricky older sister. The interaction between cast members was superb, illustrating both their ease with one another and talent for comedy. The role of Georgette (Mel Dodge) was one of the standouts as the minor roles, her movements so entertaining that in many scenes she became the star. Georgette, along with the rat-catching Tasmanian and Lord Vincent (Gene Alexander) delivered flawless and hilarious accents which had us laughing until our stomachs hurt. I’d comment on all the individual players if I could; they performed above and beyond all expectations and I was impressed once again by the high calibre of those involved.
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Jacqueline Coats & Rachel More
13 – 18, 23 – 25 February
Te Papa Amphitheatre & Gladstone Vineyard respectively