Bard on the Beach – Shakespeare in the Summertime!

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I’ve mentioned before how shockingly rare it is for me, a playwright, to actually go to the theatre. Well, one of the features of the summer here in Vancouver is the excellent Bard on the beach productions. Three years in a row we have missed out, but this year, with my parents over from the UK, we were GOING!

Since the show we were booked in for was “The Taming of the Shrew” we opted to take all three weasels. We’d primed the younger two by letting them watch Branagh’s “Much Ado About Nothing”, and youngest weasel had also taken part a class presentation of that play too. I was still a little nervous, since it was likely to be a long show…but I need not have worried. The production was hilarious. Funny because of the performers, the handling of the lines, the physical comedy. The acting was impeccable, moving from broad comedy to heartbreaking emotion. It was so gripping that the time flashed by and all too soon we were on our way out again.

The show proved that you don’t need an all-singing, all dancing mobile set to produce an epic show, you don’t need holograms, or explosions to show an audience a good time, and Shakespeare doesn’t need “translating” into modern speech to appeal. Youngest Weasel is eight years old and she loved it.

There’s a big question about the play, though. If I had read it, I think I would have had real problems with Kate’s speech at the end. You know, the one that goes “Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper, thy head, thy sovereign, one that cares for thee…”. From the text you may think that Petruchio is just mercenary, using some fairly brutal brainwashing tactics to bring his young wife to heel. But in this production it was clear that he was smitten with Kate from his first sight, and his “schooling” was aimed to bring her to the point where she could love him as much as he loved her. In the play, they really stretched the point where Kate reaches out to Petruchio and asks him to take her hand, until the whole audience was practically begging him to reciprocate. When he did take her hand, he kissed the palm with such passion I could feel my wife melting three seats away. As a result, I viewed Kate’s speech with a different slant, though I feel it would have been better directed at both halves of the newly-married couples. The best relationships are built on mutual respect, after all, with each partner trying to love and serve the other more.

We’ll definitely be back for more next year.

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5 responses to “Bard on the Beach – Shakespeare in the Summertime!

  1. Shakespeare live is such a completely different animal compared to reading the plays. I tend toward his tragedies, but even they are open to comedic translation when matched with the right actors and director. I saw Campbell Scott years ago in a production of Hamlet. He played the prince as over-the-top batsh*t crazy and it was hilarious. That hilarity made the ending that much more tragic.
    For me, the appeal of a stage production is that, as an audience member, I am blessed with the opportunity to see several different versions of favorite plays through my lifetime rather than a movie which never changes.
    And I agree with you. A good stage production doesn’t need big musical numbers, just talented actors.

    • As someone who’s been involved in amateur theatre, I sometimes think you get more from the companies who aren’t in the top theatres – they have more to prove, and are more likely to be doing it for love of the play.
      I’m always surprised by how much I love Shakespeare, and how different each version of the same play can be.

  2. I am a fan, but you know what? I have never been to anything but amateur production. All my experience lies with Kenneth Brannagh or Roman Polanski (MacBeth). However, he has so much good work, I always go back and reread his stuff. Thanks for the post.

  3. Pingback: An afternoon at Twelfth Night | Damian Trasler's Secret Blog - Do Not Read!

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