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What's on
Q&A with The Taming of the Shrew director Roslyn Johnson Print E-mail

How would you describe the plot?
Ros: Family, food and love are at its core. Taming of the Shrew is the hilarious romantic romp through the love life of the Minola sisters: “shrewish” Katherina, the older sister, and Bianca, the younger “sweet” one. The surplus of suitors for Bianca makes their father Baptista impose the unusual condition that Katherina must be married before Bianca can be. And so begins a series of secret deals, assumed identities and unconventional courtship by the brash Petruchio of the unwilling “wildcat” bride. Hate and love prove to be interchangeable as Petruchio uses the first recorded “reverse psychology” on Katherina; while Bianca’s unwelcome suitors use bribery and deceit to try to gain her affection. New guy in town Lucentio outplays them all by switching places with his own servant to woo Bianca as a tutor who offers lessons in love. Throw in some pizza, some zany antics on a Vespa, a misguided musician and a confused imposter father; hold the anchovies and add extra cheese. Then spice it up with some mambo steps, a few Dean Martin tunes, and serve with a glass of vino then you really will have la dolce vita!

What drew you to want to direct The Taming of the Shrew?
Ros: Who doesn’t love the classic love/hate visible tension of Burton and Taylor in the 60s film version? That was my original exposure to this play, but then I stumbled across a version starring John Cleese that opened up the comic possibilities in my mind. As a director, I have been moving from the dark dramas into comedies because, in truth, it’s MUCH harder to make people laugh than cry. It’s even more difficult when the text is 600 years old and has no stage directions. I LOVE a challenge.

Are you a lover of Shakespeare generally, or just this play?
Ros: I’ve been a Shakespeare fangirl from the age of 10 when I first read As You Like It because the heroine had my name. I was the Shakespeare geek at school, studied Renaissance literature at uni and had the experience of seeing JeanPierre Voos direct many Shakespearian classics for Tropicline Theatre, where I was often in the wings or once on stage as Ceres in The Tempest. I learned a lot about how to keep action moving from these shows and about respecting the spirit of the text while giving it physical momentum. My son, however, may never forgive me for his stint as the Nubian page in Merchant of Venice, bare-chested in winter. I consummated my love affair with the bard in 2000 when the most important stops in my week in the UK were in London at the Globe (Vanessa Redgrave in the Tempest), and Stratford-upon- Avon (Royal Shakespeare Company’s As You Like It). My first full-length Shakespearian directorial effort was A Midsummer Night’s Dream for Cairns High Centre of Drama Excellence in 2007, which incorporated 50 actors, 20 dancers and several kilos of glitter (which may still be in the carpet at COCA). This is my first full Shakespeare play as director with adults, but you could say it’s a lifetime commitment.  

Are you presenting it ‘straight’, or will there by some original/new touches (either in staging or interpretation)?
Ros: Through our slight recontextualisation, the 15th Italian merchant Baptista Minola becomes a 1950s Italian restaurateur with just a touch of Mafiosa. If you love your classic films like Roman Holiday you should recognise our inspiration for the visual style. The text is. However, paramount and we have worked hard to respect the iambic pentameter and master the art of delivering it with comic timing. But where the words become challenging the physical comedy will help the audience out, and we have incorporated some Commedia style sequences to deepen our Italian connection. Also, a lot of people don’t realise that Shakespeare is SUPPOSED to have musical interludes. And yes, we do! This is Shakespeare with a twist.

 
Shakespearean comedy with a twist PDF Print E-mail
What's on
Written by Paula Weston   
Wednesday, 15 April 2015 18:19

Shakespeare's feast of humour and sexual politics, The Taming of the Shrew, will be reimagined in 1950s Italy when Phoenix Ensemble presents the classic comedy at Beenleigh’s Pavilion Theatre over four weekends in April and May.

Opening on Friday 24 April, The Taming of the Shrew is the hilarious romantic romp through the romantic entanglements of the Minola sisters: "shrewish" Katherina and her “sweet” younger sister Bianca.

tshrew 1As Shakespeare tells it, a surplus of suitors for Bianca prompts their father to impose the condition that Katherina must be married before Bianca – sparking a series of secret deals, assumed identifies and unconventional courtship.

Director Roslyn Johnson describes the Phoenix production as “Shakespeare with a twist”, setting the comedy in 1950s Italy.

“Audiences who love classic films like Roman Holiday will recognise the inspiration for the visual style,” she says.

"There is some re-contextualisation that respects the text but helps the audience. Our 15th Century Italian merchant becomes a 1950s Italian restaurateur with just a touch of Mafioso.

"The text, however, is paramount and we have worked hard to respect the iambic pentameter and master the art of delivering it with comic timing. But where the words become challenging, the physical comedy will help out the audience.”

Roslyn says she always loved the film version starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, but it was only after she stumbled across a version starring John Cleese that realised the story's full comedic potential.

"Anyone who likes the 'boy meets girl, girl hates boy, boy and girl fight but fall in love' kind of story will enjoy this show.”

The cast of 14 has come from far and wide, and Roslyn has been impressed with how everyone has “synced”.

(Side note: The Taming of the Shrew was the inspiration for the 1990s romantic comedy Ten Things I Hate About You starring Heath Ledger.)

Venue:     Pavilion Theatre, Beenleigh Showgrounds, James Street, Beenleigh
7.30pm:   24, 25 April, 1, 2, 8, 9, 15 and 16 May
Tickets:    $26 adult, $24 concession and children
Bookings

Cast
Katherina Minola - Rebecca Lamb
Bianca Minola - Emma Quigley
Baptista Minola - Joel Baskin
Lucentio - Jack McGirr

Petruchio - Lachlan Clark

Tranio - Blayke Sykes
Gremio - Ken Dutt

Hortensio- Richard Murphy

Grumio- Noah Sykes

Biandella - Bianca Armstrong
Vincentio - Ian Maurice
Cook/pedant/ensemble - Ryan Thomas
Tailor/widow/ensemble - Jo Mikkelson
Rosa/Ensemble - Jane Schon/Skyah Fishpool

Last Updated on Friday, 17 April 2015 18:35
 
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