[personal profile] neonchameleon
Yesterday I went to see the RSC perform the Taming of the Shrew in Stratford upon Avon. It was played uncut, very straight, and performed extremely well with all the characters being more than understandable. At a technical level I would therefore have to give it full marks. I have just one basic question about the performance.

Why would anyone want to watch a play like that?

For those of you who don't know the Taming of the Shrew, the basic plot is pretty simple. A rich man has two daughters, the elder of whom (the Shrew of the title) is sharp-tongued and more than slightly vicious. And a very sweet and pretty younger daughter who (it's implied and was certainly played in this performance) is more than slightly manipulative and self-interested, probably egging her sister on so she can be the innocent victim (again I can't remember whether that bit was in the text or just the performance). The younger daughter has multiple suitors, but the father won't let her be married until after the elder daughter (who has scared away all potential suitors). Enter the villain - who lies his way into marrying the elder daughter for her inheritance and dowery. And then he proceeds to torture her (sleep deprivation, starvation, humiliation, possible rape implied) while telling her he is doing it out of kindness until he's broken the poor girl's spirit.

I don't understand why this is entertaining to anyone. And none of my ideas apply.

It's not the appeal of darkness. That play/performance wasn't even slightly dark. It was as black as a shit-filled binbag on a pile of coal in the open under the noonday sun. The lightest thing about it were the wings on the flies circling to try to find the shit.

It's not a BDSM kink, I trust. It shouldn't come as much of a surprise to anyone on my flist that I've got a minor one. And although I can understand a BDSM-themed Shrew that performance wasn't it. Safe, sane, consensual. None applied. Nor was there anything to do with sex. Just pure power and cruelty.

The obvious idea for the Taming of the Shrew is that it's meant to be funny. The only previous time I've seen the Shrew it was a comedy. I didn't like it then (a mix of poor acting and that I don't find that type of humour particularly funny). But although there were funny moments in it they were almost all in the Bianca (younger daughter) subplots. And then they weren't very frequent.

It wasn't horror either. Didn't hit the right notes at all - no adrenaline.

I just don't understand the appeal. The play was disturbing enough that I walked out about half way through the second act, knowing that I wasn't enjoying it at all and worried about a hyperventilation attack - and it didn't get any better. Could someone try to explain it to me?
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neonchameleon

November 2012

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