An old play and a new friend

Tonight after work I hurried off to the Barbican to see the RSC’s production of The Taming of the Shrew. It was an interesting take on the play — all the roles were reversed, with women in the men’s roles and men in the women’s roles.

Some of it worked well, mainly because the RSC has a terrific company of women actors and I was happy to see more of them on stage. It was very funny, and I particularly liked the strong lead couple and how they were able to convincingly “tame” the shrew while at the same time leaving open the possibility of his agency, and even a match of equals.

But overall I wasn’t convinced by many of the director’s choices. For example, why change all of the names except Kate’s? Or put another way, since you can’t change Kate’s name without killing memorable lines like “Kiss me Kate”, why not just leave all the names alone? It’s no harder to imagine a woman named Vincentio than it is a man named Kate.

And if we’re playing with gender stereotypes, why have Petruchia play so manly a bully? Or Bianco such an effeminate man? Is there no such thing as a female bully, or a virginal man? Maybe not.

Clearly it was a show that needed discussion and dissection! Normally that would mean me texting Ananda at intermission to give her my one-sided and contextless review.

But tonight I had what turned out to be an unexpected friend next to me. A young woman who I had bumped into in the restaurant before the show turned out y be in the seat right next to mine. The coincidence was too much to ignore, so we struck up a conversation. A graduate student of English lit at a university in Geneva, she was in London to do research on Shakespeare’s poetry at the British Library, and decided to pop in to the theatre. I mean, what are the odds — how could we not become friends?

So we critiqued and analysed and gave the show mixed reviews and basically enjoyed how nerdily literary we each turned out to be (for example, she was flabbergasted when it came up casually that I read Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of England for pleasure last year). And after the show we walked past of the way home together continuing the discussion.

When it was time for our paths to diverge, we exchanged contact information — who knows, maybe we’ll see another play when she’s next in London for research? And I still need to visit Switzerland.


  1. You had me at British Library. (Although secretly I was hoping the new friend was Emma Thompson.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I believe we all secretly hope that 🙂


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